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RÅDSTRÖM WINS BATTLE OF THE SWEDES

The FIA Junior World Rally Championship got off to a stunning start at this weekend’s Rally Sweden – Dennis Rådström and Johan Johansson securing a popular home victory behind the wheel of their Pirelli-shod one-litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta R2.

For the first time in over a decade, the Junior crews have had to master the art of winter rallying. As expected, the Nordic drivers came to the fore and an intense battle of the Swedes between Rådström and Emil Bergkvist developed over the course of the weekend.

Highlighting the intensity of the fight between the two young Swedes, the pairing were tied on exactly the same overall time at Friday’s midday service break. With Rådström securing nine stage wins, and Bergvisk five, the lead changed hands six times.

But it was Rådström, who hails from the host town of Torsby, who claimed the spoils – securing the win with a 7.3 second advantage over his compatriot.

Estonia’s Ken Torn had kept in touch with the leading duo but when he rolled his Fiesta on the first stage of Saturday morning, Julius Tannert climbed into third place – although not without a late scare on Saturday’s closing Torsby stage.

Colliding with an advertising banner on the racing line, the German damaged the radiator of his Fiesta and dramatic scenes ensued at the in-control as he drove into sight with steam billowing from the bonnet.

Expert advice from the M-Sport Poland technicians saw him safeguard the engine and the car was fully repaired in service – allowing Tannert to achieving his pre-rally goal of a podium position through the closing stages.

Elsewhere in the field, all of the Junior drivers must be praised for their enthusiasm, determination and willingness to learn. If the season is to be anything like the opening round, we’re in for the most exciting year yet.

Dennis Rådström (1st) said:

“This is the best day of my life. In the beginning we only did our pace, but today I got pretty nervous! I wasn’t feeling the pressure, but there was a little bit of nervousness as Emil was really close behind. He’s a strong competitor, but in the end we did what we needed to do. I hope that we have shown the WRC teams our development and the step that we have taken in our performance.”

Emil Bergkvist (2nd) said:

“It’s been a really close battle with Dennis. We started the day pushing very hard to see if we could catch him, but we knew it would be difficult. To be honest, it took some time to get used to the car, but we made a good step.”

Julius Tannert (3rd) said:

“To be third at Rally Sweden is definitely more than we expected. For sure, this has been a very good event for us and a very good start to the season.”

FIA Junior World Rally Championship Manager, Maciej Woda, said:

“Congratulations to Dennis and Johan. It’s always a special feeling to win at home, but even more so for Dennis as we’re based here in his home town of Torsby. In fact, I need to say congratulations to every crew this weekend. We’ve seen fantastic performances throughout the field and it’s clear to see that there are some future starts amongst the lineup. We’ve seen speed, determination, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn – everything that will see these young guys go far.”

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE FIELD
CREW BY CREW

Jean-Baptiste Franceschi (4th):

With limited experience on snow, Franceschi knew that the Nordic drivers would be difficult to beat this weekend, but held his own as one of the front-running non-Scandinavians. Locked in an intense battle for fourth place with fellow Frenchman Terry Folb, Franceschi came out on top by just 1.5 seconds.

“I learnt a lot on this rally. It’s my first time on snow and my first experience with these tyres so I’m really happy with this result. It puts us in a good position ahead of our home event in Corsica.”

Terry Folb (5th):

Folb might not be accustomed to competing on snow, but it didn’t take the Frenchman long to get up to speed. Battling with Franceschi for fourth place, Folb had the upper hand before missing out by the smallest of margins through the event’s closing stages.

“Yesterday was a much better day for us. We didn’t have a very good start this morning and I think I must have been sleeping on the first stage [SS17] as we didn’t have the right speed. We pushed hard through the final two stages to try and catch Franceschi, but just missed out.”

Callum Devine (6th):

Devine stepped up as he took a step into the unknown this weekend. The Irishman’s first taste of competitive driving on snow came on the pre-event Shakedown, but he displayed a high level of adaptability by quickly getting on the pace. Despite being one of the most inexperienced winter drivers in the field, Devine showed progress throughout the weekend to secure sixth place overall.

“It’s been difficult but it’s also been a lot of fun. This was my first time competing on snow and I learnt a lot. We’ve been learning as much as we can, as quick as we can, but the guys in front of us have been pretty fast here.”

Emilio Fernández (7th):

Adopting an intelligent approach to his first event on snow, Fernández has been improving with every stage. Gaining knowledge and experience, the Chilean’s hard work and enthusiasm was rewarded with a stage win on Saturday’s final speed test – an amazing achievement considering his inexperience of winter rallying.

“Racing here in Sweden is very nice – I’ve never been here before and I love it. Everything surprised me on this event, and I can say that it isn’t easy driving in these conditions. But now we are here and we have finished the competition well.”

Luca Bottarelli (8th):

Bottarelli implemented an intelligent strategy to best cope with the unfamiliarity of competing on snow. Throughout the field those with and without experience were falling foul of the conditions, but Bottarelli kept his cool – completed all of the stages unscathed so as to take the maximum experience away from this weekend’s tricky encounter.

“This was my first time on the snow and I think it’s normal that we found some difficulties. But we enjoyed it and tried to improve on every stage.”

David Holder (9th):

Hailing from New Zealand, Holder knew that he would have much to learn on the snow-covered stages of Rally Sweden. He may have diced with the snow banks, but he completed all of the stages to take maximum experience and enjoyment.

“As our first time on snow it’s been a very challenging rally for us, but also a pretty mega experience. We were in the snow banks a few times but managed to continue without any damage to the car – and we’ve learnt a lot about competing on this surface.”

Tom Williams (10th):

Williams might have endured a difficult start to the season this weekend, but the young Brit displayed a determination that will see him go far. Eager to learn, he took every opportunity to further his knowledge. Rolling his Fiesta on SS4 he refused to give up the fight and, despite some substantial time loss, made it back to service without missing a single stage.

“It’s been a difficult rally and I think our main problem was the pacenotes. I genuinely couldn’t believe how fast the straights were and my notes weren’t quite right for the corners. But we did what we came here to do. We finished the rally and showed some good progress.”

Theo Chalal (11th):

Having no previous experience of winter rally this event was always going to be something of a learning curve for Chalal, but the Frenchman showed a real enthusiasm and determination. After becoming stuck in a snow bank on SS2, he then rolled his Fiesta on SS6 but persevered to get the car back on the road – completing all of the stages to take maximum experience for the future.

“This rally was really strange for me and we had a lot of problems during the first day – a spin from a car in front putting us in the snow bank [on SS2] and then a roll [on SS6]. Luckily we got the car back on its wheels to make it through all the stages.”

Ken Torn (12th):

Having secured four stage wins, Torn had been on course for a podium finish this weekend. Taking to the snow with ease, the Estonian looked comfortable behind the wheel and was just 20 seconds adrift of the lead on Friday evening. But as the action turned to Saturday, he rolled on the first stage of the morning (SS9) and fell from the fight. With his car repaired by the M-Sport Poland technicians, Torn finished the event under Rally 2 regulations.

“Our driving was going quite well but in a fast corner on SS9 the rear started to slide. We hit the snow bank with the front and rolled. Overall, this rally was a good opportunity for me to learn and I think our speed is quite good.”

Enrico Oldrati (DNF):

After going into a snow bank on SS4, Enrico Oldrati damaged the radiator of his Fiesta. Upon inspection at the service park, the damage to the engine proved too severe and the Italian was regrettably forced to withdraw from the event.

"On the first stage I was trying to get a feel for the car because I had no experience on ice. On Friday morning we started well but I had a problem with my sunglasses which steamed up. I couldn’t see and I lost a lot of time but I wasn’t worried because the most important thing was to complete the stages and get the experience.

“After that, we focused on the set-up and I felt as though I was getting better, but on the fourth stage I lost my concentration on a long straight when the windscreen steamed up. I didn’t get a note from my co-driver about a left turn and suddenly I saw a snow bank in front of my eyes.

“A big thanks to the spectators who managed to push us back on the road, but after 100 meters the high temperature signal appeared. Unfortunately, we had lost the coolant and cooked the engine.

“I felt very good on these snowy conditions. I tried to drive as clean as possible and wasn’t pushing too hard. Also the car was new for me and its speed was amazing – driving at 170 kilometers per hour on snow was a wonderful experience.

“Now, we need to take a positive attitude forward to the Tour the Corse where I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel again.”

 

RALLY SWEDEN CLASSIFICATION:

1. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson 3:15:26.0
2. Emil Bergkvist / Ola Fløene +7.3
3. Julius Tannert / Jürgen Heigl +4:43.3
4. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi / Romain Courbon +4:52.7
5. Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu +4:54.2
6. Callum Devine / Keith Moriarty +6:27.9
7. Emilio Fernández / Joaquin Riquelme +15:02.1
8. Luca Bottarelli / Manuel Fenoli +15:43.9
9. David Holder / Jason Ronald Farmer +19:16.7
10. Tom Williams / Phil Hall +48:45.2
11. Theo Chalal / Jaques-Julien Renucci +54:00.2
12. Ken Torn / Kuldar Sikk +55:52.4

 

RALLY SWEDEN STAGE WINS:

Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson - 9
Emil Bergkvist / Ola Fløene - 5
Ken Torn / Kuldar Sikk - 4
Emilio Fernández / Joaquin Riquelme - 1

 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:

1. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson - 34
2. Emil Bergkvist / Ola Fløene - 23
3. Julius Tannert / Jürgen Heigl - 15
4. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi / Romain Courbon - 12
5. Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu - 10
6. Callum Devine / Keith Moriarty - 8
7. Emilio Fernández / Joaquin Riquelme - 7
8. Luca Bottarelli / Manuel Fenoli - 4
9. Ken Torn / Kuldar Sikk - 4
10. David Holder / Jason Ronald Farmer - 2
11. Tom Williams / Phil Hall - 1