The Oman Rally Team duo of Abdullah Al-Rawahi and Ata Al-Hmoud overcame their lack of experience of winter rallying conditions and the additional difficulties of heavy snowfall to make an impressive start to their FIA Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) campaign at Rally Sweden.

After Saturday morning’s ninth of the event’s 18 special stages at Vännäs, the crew were progressing well in their M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 on the opening round of the five-event JWRC. They recovered strongly from hitting a banking on SS7 on Friday evening and incurring time penalties that pushed them down to 16th position by setting the 12th quickest time.

Al-Rawahi said: “It was tough and so many changes with the weather and the conditions. It was pretty new to me and a new challenge. We had a lot of moments and we lost so much time.  The good thing was that we did all the stages until the last one (Friday) when we hit a bank and we broke the radiator. We had to stop. Otherwise, I was happy with the day.”

Co-driver Al-Hmoud added: “We stopped five kilometres from the finish of the seventh stage when we hit a snow bank. It was a tough experience coming to a WRC and starting with Sweden. This was tough and driving at night was also new to Abdullah and for me as well. Anyway, we hope to gain more experience over the weekend. The pace has been okay.”

Al-Rawahi started strongly on Thursday’s shakedown stage and carded a couple of impressive runs on a section of track where he was able to adjust his driving style to pushing hard between snow banks on studded tyres. Even before the event had begun in earnest, his Bolivian rival Bruno Bulacia succumbed to an accident. The South American was sidelined and the list of JWRC starters was reduced to 18.

After finishing the opening 5.16km sprint stage in Umeå on Thursday evening in 16th position, the real meat of the action began on Friday morning with the first of two passes through the famous Brattby stage. Predictably, local driver Mikke Johansson used his local knowledge to full effect and posted the fastest time: Al-Rawahi was 14th and moved up two places in the rankings.

Runs through the Noorby and Floda specials completed the morning’s loop and Al-Rawahi emerged unscathed from his first ever snow action in the World Rally Championship and returned to the service park in Umeå in 14th position after posting the ninth quickest JWRC time in SS4. Germany’s Fabio Schwarz led Johansson by just 0.6 seconds.

The three stages were repeated in the afternoon before competitors tackled the sprint stage in Umeå for a second time. Heavy snowfall hampered crews running at the front of the field through Brattby and made for horrific driving conditions on the already challenging stages. Al-Rawahi continued his impressive form and the 10th quickest time saw the Omani climb to 13th in JWRC.

Al-Rawahi was running strongly on the re-run of Noorby until he stopped in the latter part of the stage after hitting a banking and was unable to continue on to the final sprint stage in Umeå for fear of risking damage to the Fiesta’s engine after breaking the radiator. Johansson leads the JWRC category from Estonian Romet Jürgenson.

Further competition takes place in the Vännäs, Sarsjöliden and Bygdsiljum specials and a new stage at Umeå on Saturday afternoon.
   Action then concludes on Sunday morning with two passes through the 25.50km Västervik stage and a second run through the 10.08km Umeå special that acts as the event’s Power Stage finale.

Abdullah Al-Rawahi in the JWRC category at Rally Sweden

Full attack for Abdullah Al-Rawahi at Rally Sweden

JWRC service at Umea in Sweden

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