A number of leading World Rally Championship drivers have expressed their frustration towards the selected stages for this year’s Rally Sweden which they feel aren’t interesting enough.
Sweden moved north from Karlstad to Umeå for 2022 in a bid to guarantee more snow, but there were some complaints made regarding the nature of the route with drivers calling for more technical stages.
This year’s rally features a revised route including several new stages but drivers feel that the rally has instead been made even faster.
Thierry Neuville was quick to admit he has been left “surprised” after completing the recce, with the nature of the stages making for an uninspiring drive.
“It’s hard to give real feedback. Some of the stages from last year we know and the profile is OK I would say but some of the new stages are ridiculously fast and not very enjoyable during the recce,” he said.
“I hope we’re going to have a bit more joy during the race. I have been surprised discovering the stages, I think my team-mate’s comments were basically the same that yeah some of the sections are really not interesting.
“As well, there’s no ice underneath some of the stages due to the fact that we run in the middle of the forest where there has never been any car driving and it’s only powder snow so we will be quickly into the gravel.
“Some of the stages are the opposite [to being technical],” Neuville added.
“I mean they are really, really fast but without corners as well, only a few, couple of corners so as a driver you always look for challenges and stages with nice flow such as we had in Rovaniemi [for Arctic Rally Finland in 2021] which for me was one of the best rallies I have ever done in my career in terms of flow and speed and excitement.
“But obviously this weekend we won’t get this.”
Others agreed with Neuville’s comments including Ott Tänak who’s also worried about how some stages could lack interest.
“It’s definitely fast but I would say the main case is it’s quite straight, so we have long straight sections which maybe is not the most interesting,” he said.
“But still there are other stages which are a bit more like rally stages and probably these ones will decide hopefully.”
Asked if he was disappointed by the lack of technical stages, world champion Kalle Rovanperä said: “Yeah, definitely.
“I think even some of last year’s roads what we missed were better than the new ones. Definitely lots of ice, for sure.
“We still have always a corner at the end of the straight, but yeah [it’s] too fast in some sections.
Where there are straights, there’s the need for a strong engine, and that’s one thing the drivers will be hoping to have underneath them this weekend.
Tänak reckoned the rally could be like “a drag race” and Rovanperä agreed the length of some straights could decide who will come out on top this weekend.
“To be honest, I didn’t really check with the guys what is their prediction before this event,” he explained.
“I think after Monte the teams compare a bit, I have no idea to be honest.
“But certainly when you see the straights, you hope you have a good engine, but I trust him in our guys that they have made a good job, but of course Hyundai is normally strong with these kind of events and the engine also.”
Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul isn’t convinced the i20 N Rally1 still has the edge in a straight line though.
“It used to be a competitive advantage of this team,” he said, “[but] I think our competitors have caught up a bit over winter. Let’s see.”