The Ford Rallye Sport team heads to one of the fastest and most spectacular events in motor sport this week with the running of the World Rally Championship’s only true winter event, the Swedish Rally (6-9 February).
The Ford Focus team of Markko Märtin (Estonia), François Duval (Belgium) and Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) will drive on studded narrow tyres over stages covered in snow and ice.
Plunging temperatures this week have created a solid ice base on top of the gravel roads so that all crews can drive at maximum speed throughout the three days of competition.
The Ford Focus World Rally Cars combat the seemingly treacherous roads with skinny Michelin tyres, fitted with tungsten-tipped steel studs. The studded tyres work extremely well on the icy surface, providing drivers with greater grip levels than experienced on gravel rally events.
Estonian Märtin and English co-driver Michael Park are big fans of the rally.
"It's one of my favourites and if the conditions are right the roads are great fun to drive on,” said 27-year-old Martin.
“The Focus and Michelin tyres should be a good package so I think it could be another good event for us.
Duval finished 10th in Sweden last year on his debut in a Focus and, like Märtin, enjoys the snow and ice.
"There are a few things you have to remember about driving in these conditions,” said Duval.
“The tyres themselves are not in contact with the road surface.
“It's the studs that touch the ground and the car moves around a little more under braking for corners but the level of grip is just incredible”.
Ford Rallye Sport team director Malcolm Wilson is confident of a strong result after the team's impressive start to the year with fourth place to Märtin and seventh to Duval at Round One in Monte Carlo.
"The results of Markko and François there were a great boost to us all,” said Wilson.
“It's always a tough task to match the Nordic drivers on a winter rally but we believe that the Focus and Michelin's tyres will work well in Sweden and I'm optimistic of another good performance, especially from Markko.”
The rally is based around a single service park at Hagfors, north of the host city of Karlstad. The three-day rally features 379 competitive kilometres over 17 timed stages.