The Swedish Rally will be Toni Gardemeister’s second outing for Ford Rallye Sport, but the experienced Finn strongly believes he can secure a win for the Blue Oval this weekend.

The Swedish Rally will be Toni Gardemeister’s second outing for Ford Rallye Sport, but the experienced Finn strongly believes he can secure a win for the Blue Oval this weekend.


Gardemeister, whose best result in the WRC to date is third place in Rally New Zealand in 1999, has shown impressive pace on the snow-covered stages around Karlstad in recent years, and rates the rally as one of his favourites.


The Finn will be joined by privateer Henning Solberg - the brother of Subaru ace Petter Solberg - as the manufacturer points-nominated driver in Sweden, as regular works driver Roman Kresta lacks experience on snow, and team boss Malcolm Wilson is keen to give the young Czech the chance to get accustomed to the conditions without the pressure of having to finish the rally.

"It's still early in my career with Ford, but this is one of the rallies where I think a win is realistic," Gardemeister said. "Much depends on the weather. We'll start the first day second on the road. If temperatures are above freezing and the snow is soft, we'll have poor grip in that position and we'll lose time clearing the snow for those behind to have a cleaner line. But, if it's old snow and the roads are frozen and icy, then grip will be good."


The current forecast is that teams and drivers can expect un-seasonal warm spell and comparatively little snow this weekend.


Early reports from the pre-event recce suggest that just 20 per cent of stages are covered in a thick layer of snow, while the rest is a mix of gravel and ice. Organisers have been watering the stages overnight to build up a layer of ice on the road. However, snow is forecast for the next few days, with heavy falls expected by the weekend, reported on Thursday.


Teams will be limited to using studded ice tyres, which are likely to lose studs on the less well-covered gravel patches, resulting in tyre damage and a loss of grip on the icy stretches. The drivers are unlikely to be able to rely on snow banks - which they use as a cushion to guide their cars around the corners - but the stages are now much wider, meaning they'll be able to use more conventional gravel lines. The recce has also gained much more importance, with drivers now having to note current - and likely - snow patches, rather than focusing on the bare sections.