Ford chase more success as Loeb looms
Nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb will try to break the Ford stranglehold on the Rally of Sweden which starts on Thursday and attempt to end their six-year winning streak.
The Frenchman, who is seen as the greatest rally driver of all time, deliberately included the Scandinavian stop on his agenda as he scales down his schedule to just four races, one of which was Monte Carlo where he picked up victory in the season's curtain raiser last month.
The Citroen team have found it frustratingly difficult to win in Sweden with their last victory dating back to 2004, when Loeb won for the only time in his career although his teammate Mikko Hirvonen of Finland triumphed in both 2010 and 2011, behind the wheel of a Ford.
"It is certainly not the rally that has brought me the most success these past years," said Loeb who finished sixth in 2011 and 2012, second in 2010 and failed to finish in 2008.
"But that is what motivates me," added the Alsace native who is only scheduled to race in Argentina and France over the rest of the season.
"Honestly, our victory in 2004 was not exactly spectacular. We only won because the others had problems. I am trying to master these specials."
This year's race will feature 22 specials over 12 different routes, covering some 340km and a circuit very much similar to last year, apart from a jaunt into Norway on Sunday.
While Loeb and Hirvonen target success for Citroen, Ford Fiesta driver Mads Ostbert will also be amongst the favourites after winning his third Finnskog Rally last weekend and finishing third here last year.
While Ford have won 82 races and five world titles since joining the circuit in 1973, they are taking more of a backseat role this year as British team M-Sport control the outfit but use the American cars.
Four of their cars were in the top five last year in Sweden when Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala drove to victory for the second time, following his maiden win in 2008.
Another Frenchman, Sebastien Ogier who finished second at Monte Carlo in a Volkswagen is another strong contender while teammate Latvala will be out to defend his crown.
"I love this rally which imposes fluid driving and precision on the forest roads," explained Latvala.
"My objective is to finish in the top five," he added.