MEEKE, AL-QASSIMI AND BREEN UP FOR SWEDISH CHALLENGE
The only full winter rally on the calendar, Rally Sweden is always eagerly awaited by fans of the WRC. The World Rally Cars are able to drift around the corners of the icy roads at speeds in excess of 160kph thanks to the grip afforded by the Michelin studded tyres. The crews and photographers love it here, as do the many spectators who brave the cold conditions to get a glimpse of their heroes on the stages. In Scandinavia, rallying is part and parcel of the local culture!
As the weather has been fairly mild for the last few weeks, conditions for the 2016 event look set to be very difficult. Even if temperatures drop dramatically and there is heavy snowfall, the snow banks lining the stages will in all likelihood remain too soft and the slightest error will almost certainly mean the crews having to dig themselves out of the snow.
Already in the limelight at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT will take another step forward this weekend in entering three cars at this round. On his sixth appearance in Sweden, Khalid Al-Qassimi will be the team’s most experienced driver. Winner of the prestigious Colin’s Crest trophy in 2008 – which rewards the longest jump on the Vargåsen stage, in memory of the late Colin McRae – the Abu Dhabi driver enjoys this event despite the fact it could not be any further removed from the deserts of the Middle East!
Having only competed in Sweden twice before, in 2014 (10th) and 2015 (7th), Kris Meeke is something of a novice here! Last year, the Northern Irishman produced a very strong performance since he was on course for a podium finish until he ran wide and got stuck in one of the famous snow banks on Finnskogen. This third appearance will therefore be devoted to gaining as much experience as possible for the future.
After appearing in Monte-Carlo for recce and to get used to the team’s way of working, Craig Breen will be contesting his first rally with the Abu Dhabi Total WRT. The Irishman is a big fan of the Swedish stages and knows that he has a golden opportunity to showcase his skills at the top level. Earlier in his career, Craig secured two category podium-finishes in Super 2000 cars (2011 and 2012). Two years ago, he scored points on his first competitive outing in a World Rally Car, as he finished ninth.
In line with the programme defined at the start of the season, the Abu Dhabi Total WRT crews will each have one day of pre-event testing, organised this weekend in the Hagfors region.