If one man can take the Rally Sweden fight to the Scandinavians, it’s the reigning World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier.

Co-driven by Julien Ingrassia, Ogier has won in Sweden three times (2013, 2015 and 2016) and having also won in Monte Carlo last month, the WRC leader will be starting this weekend’s winter rally number one on the road in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

“It looks as though we are in for a true winter rally next week with everything needed for a classic Rally Sweden,” says Ogier. “Reports from the region suggest that there’s a good ice base and high snow banks which is everything a driver wants to hear ahead of this event.

“In those conditions, we can reach incredible speeds and lean the cars on the snow banks to help guide us through the corners. It’s an amazing feeling, but it’s not without its challenges.

“There’s certainly an art to driving on snow and you need to be precise. You have to judge the strength of the snow banks perfectly and – with more snow than previous years – there could be a lot of work to do on the pacenotes.

“As the first car on the road, we’ll also have to wait and see what the conditions are like and we’re certainly not hoping to see any fresh snow on Friday.

“We got the season off to a great start last month, but we all know how strong the competition is and we’re expecting it to be even stronger next week. The Scandinavians are always strong here, but we plan to give them a hard time and secure another strong haul of points for our championship defence.”

This year’s Rally Sweden has seen a 50% increase in the number of entries, with a total of 67 drivers from 24 different countries represented. And with months of wintry weather and freezing temperatures, crews are in for a classic Rally Sweden, with high snow banks and a thick layer of ice setting the scene for another thrilling encounter. The event kicks off with a super special stage in Karlstad on Thursday evening and finishes on Sunday, after stages in the Swedish and Norwegian forests.

Ogier and Ingrassia wear Stilo WRC Zero helmets.