World Rally Championship teams are already turning their attention to round two of the championship.
A few days after the finish of Rallye Monte Carlo, organisers of Rally Sweden revealed an entry list for their February 24 to 27 event.
As expected, neither M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Sébastien Loeb or Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team’s Sébastien Ogier – the first and second placed finishers on the season opener – are not contesting the season’s only full snow rally.
Both drivers are on parttime programmes and while the list of events that they will eventually contest has yet to be released, they are not on the Swedish entry list.
The two drivers confirmed at the post-event conference in Monte Carlo that they will not be in Croatia, (round three, in April) either.
What does all this mean for Craig Breen and Paul Nagle?
For starters, they will be M-Sport Ford’s team leaders on the Umea based event. The rally is moving much further north from its historical Karlstad based, in search of more snow and, the route will be 100 per-cent new for all competitors.
Road positioning will be important too. Breen finished third on Rallye Monte Carlo but left Monaco in fourth place in the championship standings.
He purposely did not contest the bonus-point awarding Power Stage on Sunday, leaving the two Sebs to battle it out.
Kalle Rovanperä finished behind Breen in Monte Carlo but won the Power Stage and the five bonus points he snared means he is the championship leader going into round two.
Crucially, the Finnish driver will be first on the road in Sweden acting as a snowplough for all following crews.
Breen will start second – not ideal by any means but in a slightly more favourable position than his Toyota rival.
It is a situation the Waterford man is well aware of.
Speaking at the post-event Monte Carlo Rally press conference he said:
“It’s going to be a different rally in Sweden. Having partial programmes in the past has been quite nice, I’ve landed in at the back, then had a great Friday and tried to hold on for the rest of the weekend. Kalle winning the Power Stage means I won’t open the road, but I’ll be near the front.”
“I’m actually really looking forward to the event and really keen get into the test and see what we can do to put as strong a case as possible forward for this event. For the first time in life, I’m doing a full championship and all these points are valuable now.”