The Swedish Rally is the country’s biggest sports event, for it is a unique challenge and one of the most daunting in the FIA World Rally Championship. It is the only round of the series in which sub-zero temperatures are guaranteed. The snow-covered forest tracks of central Sweden demand special driving techniques, notably the ability to lean the car on snow banks - if the snow is deep enough - and the use of special studded tires.
"One very significant thing to say about Sweden is the volume and quality of the world rally car entries," said Isao Torii, the head of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports. "Our expectation for Sweden is much the same as it was for Monte-Carlo; two cars at the finish, in the points, and if we can get one in the top five we will be happy."
Adding to his comments, Technical Director, Mario Fornaris said: "It will be very tough competition because we expect a lot of good world rally cars in Sweden, but on the other hand we have improved since last year. Our test mainly focused on the new dampers, suspension set-up and tires and I am happy with these results. At the moment it seems the weather in Sweden can change from day to day, so we will have to wait and see what the conditions are like when arrive."
Mitsubishi driver Harri Rovanperä has previously contested the Swedish Rally on six occasions and while results are mixed, it is nevertheless a rally the Finn looks forward to and one which brings back fond memories. In 2001, he and Risto Pietiläinen registered their first-ever World Championship rally victory in this event and followed it up with a second position the following year. Having not competed here in 2004, the pair is looking forward to powering their Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 through the snowy and frozen forests north of the host town of Karlstad.
"Sweden is absolutely one of my favorite rallies. "After the test we can say we have the best set-up available to us, but at the moment it’s obviously difficult to know exactly what the conditions will be like," said Harri. "With proper winter conditions, ice and snow, it is a great rally to drive and one that’s also really fast. After Monte-Carlo I’m feeling confident for the future."
"Gigi" Galli and Guido D’Amore - who spent the weekend with the team in Monte-Carlo - get back behind the wheel competitively for the first time this season. This will be Gigi’s fifth outing in Sweden and his first in World Rally Car machinery, making the task ahead all the more challenging. The Italians did however compete in Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Group N last year and finished fifth of the registered contenders.
"We did two days of testing in the north of Sweden in December and I was very satisfied with my driving style and, for me, I have always driven on Pirelli tires in this rally so I know them very well. There is no comparison between Group N and the world rally car," said Gigi. "With the Lancer WRC you can drive very cleanly; you can take good lines, brake late, change gear in the middle of corners, everything is possible. With Group N cars, you have to drive much more sideways, but it is a production car, so this is normal. Our goal this year is to help with the development of the car, but it is going to be very interesting for me to compare my performance and tire choice against Harri, who knows this event well and has won it before."