“Despite shortening of the race, we have learned a lot”

Czech rally crew Filip Mares – Jan Hlousek has debuted in the world rally championship. This year’s Rally Sweden was unfortunately due to lack of snow and plus temperatures shortened. Despite that was Filip Mares allowed to try this famous northern rally for the first time. He finished his world debut as the 6th fastest driver in the WRC3 category.

Even 14 days before the rally starts it was no clear if the Rally Sweden will not be canceled. Organizations were suffered from a lack of snow and unusually high temperatures. A compromise solution was ultimately taken, as the rally was shortened. In some places, the stages seemed rather like Finland’s ones with a lot of gravel. It was then clear the rally is going to be very difficult and demanding for all the crews. There were no snowbanks around the stages, but deep ditches were ready to take everyone who fails in many places. “This year winter is quite poor across Europe and unfortunately it hit Sweden as well. But the organizations did an awesome job and it’s needed to appreciate their huge effort,” said Filip.

Filip tried his studded Michelin tires on gravel at least during two passes through the Shakedown, its surface was completely frozen. With this fresh knowledge then started to the first day of the rally. The pace of the fastest northerners was untouchable for our crew, but the 6th position in WRC3 results was very positive (fastest no Scandinavian crew). “Before the rally started, we had tested in proper winter conditions a few hundred kilometers northward. During the race, we had to face the mix of everything with mud, frozen gravel, ice, and snow – all the surfaces with studded tires. With the changing grip, it was not so easy to find the right rhythm on the first day and I was not happy with my performance at all. Otherwise, we expected this within the very first start on the WRC event, moreover in these very specific conditions. Despite that, some of our more experienced rivals were not so much far ahead of us,” commented Filip.

Day 2 ended up much more positive for the only Czech drivers in Sweden. Despite rising temperatures and melting ice and snow, Filip and Jan managed to speed up and decrease the gap to the fastest northerners to the one second per kilometer of the stage at the end of the day. “It was my advantage, that the second day was exactly the same as the first one in terms of stages. And we easily could compare our pace with the first passes. Despite the conditions were getting worse a bit, we managed to be faster and it resulted not only in better times but mainly in much better feelings about our performance,” revealed Filip after the rally.

The itinerary of the last day contained only two passes of stage Likenäs, which was finally run just once due to very heavy rain. Thank to that there was no so much space for further progress. It meant the 20th position overall in the WRC debut for the Czech crew Filip Mares – Jan Hlousek and mainly solid 6th position in the WRC3 category. “Sweden gave us a lot despite its shortening. Pacenotes, driving style and work with tires as well. Practically in all the aspects, there is a space for improvement. It was not only the world debut for us but the very first winter race with the studded tires as well. Huge experience which I am very grateful to my team and our partners for! Also, our Fabia R5 Evo from KRESTA RACING worked perfectly during all the weekend. There was no problem with the car or its setup and we could only be concentrated on ourselves. Finally, it was impossible not to see a number of the Czech flags on the stages, it was absolutely awesome and very motivating. Czech fans are the best ones!”

After several years the Czech Roman Kresta has returned to the WRC championship. But this time already as the owner of his KRESTA RACING and the mentor of Filip Mares. “We prepared the three days of testing for Filip. The first two were in proper snowy conditions which are usual for Sweden in this period. Conditions of the last day of testing were similar to the race itself. Therefore, lack of snow and frozen gravel. Instead of snowbanks, there were only trees and ditches around the stages. It completely changed the character of the rally, because snowbanks can help you a lot in corners. Now it was necessary to keep the precise line, which was not easy for the novices. It was all the new for Filip and Jan and despite their effort, it was not possible to be perfectly prepared for everything. It is simply necessary to try it, to go through the stages and then you finally have the right experience and feedback. In fact, we expected better times on Friday, but they did not come until Saturday. Sunday had not big sporty value in this way with only one stage in very bad weather. The conditions were changing with every other car on the road and to judge the grip and stiffness of the ice. To keep the optimal line was a huge challenge for everyone. Filip and Jan have taken the important experience and know now what they need to work on,” sais Roman Kresta after Rally Sweden.