UMEÅ (SWEDEN): The Oman Rally Team duo of Abdullah Al-Rawahi and Ata Al-Hmoud are set to take part in this year’s five-round FIA Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) and the opening round sees them heading to Scandinavia for this weekend’s world-famous Rally Sweden.
The only traditional snow rally in the WRC calendar moved north to the city of Umeå in 2022 and the crew will tackle 18 special stages in a traditional winter wonderland with snow-covered stages and the use of studded tyres a necessity.
Drivers traditionally lean their cars against the snow banks to obtain the best line through the fast-flowing forest stages. The tyres provide remarkable grip but drivers must adjust their driving style and braking points accordingly in the sub-zero temperatures.
All crews taking part in the JWRC use identical M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally3 cars running on Pirelli tyres. The series is open to drivers under the age of 29 who have not competed as a Priority 1 driver in a WRC event.
Al-Rawahi said: “Sweden is a new challenge for us, snow. We actually had a test day in Norway last week. It went really well. Obviously, it is new terrain. Our aim is to do our best in this rally. There is going to be very challenging competition in the JWRC. We are aiming to finish all the rallies to gain experience. If we do an amazing result, then that is a bonus. The first year is about learning the stages and learning the car. I think we will be quite comfortable. I am very excited to be honest to be racing in the World Rally Championship. We will gain so much experience. We are ready…”
Co-driver Al-Hmoud said: “It is fantastic that Abdullah is participating in this category. It is good for him to go outside the Middle East to compete with others and to see new stages. It is an excellent step for him. JWRC is also an excellent opportunity to compete against other young drivers with similar or even more experience.
“The most important is that everyone uses the same cars and almost the same set-ups. Everyone can improve their driving skills. The Middle East is an excellent start for him but we repeat the stages sometimes. With defined stages and the same cars will be a good thing. Driving on snow is like a dream for me to be honest. I have been in one day in Norway and it was really fantastic testing there.”
The crew finished third overall at the Qatar International Rally recently, but the snow and ice of Scandinavia will be a far cry from the deserts of northern Qatar.
Al-Hmoud added: “Several engineers and technicians in Qatar knew we were going to Sweden and they gave us a lot of advice and comments. That really helps us. Abdullah’s driving skills were excellent. The trainer in Norway was really happy with his driving. We did around 200km on the snow and we improved our times each kilometre. We are really excited to go there. We have limited access to the set-up but we are looking to have some good times…”
The duo created history by becoming the first crew to share a championship title, after they tied for points in a dead heat with multiple champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel in last year’s FIA Middle East Rally Championship.
The JWRC has attracted 19 entries and competitors from 21 different nations. The series will be fought out over additional events in Croatia (April 18-21), Sardinia (May 30-June 2), Finland (August 1-4) and Greece (September 5-8). Double points will be on offer at the last round in Greece for drivers who have entered at least three JWRC rounds.
The first prize is an arrive and drive package to contest four European rounds of the 2025 FIA World Rally Championship in a Ford Fiesta Rally2 car.
Al-Rawahi’s rivals include Bolivians Nataniel Bruun and Bruno Bulacia, Ireland’s Eamonn Kelly, Paraguay’s Diego Dominguez, Chile’s Gerardo Valenzeula, the Spanish duo of Raúl Hernández and Roberto Blach, Belgium’s Tom Rensonnet and Poland’s Jakub Matulka. Mikke Johansson represents the host nation.
Rally Sweden is based at the Nolia Exhibition Centre in Umeå. After a short shakedown stage on Thursday (February 15) morning, action gets underway with a short sprint stage in the eastern Swedish cityon Thursday evening.
Two loops of three stages follow on Friday (February 16) before the day’s action concludes with a second pass through the 5.16km sprint stage in Umeå. A further seven stages are planned for Saturday (February 17) with two passes through the Vännäs, Sarsjöliden and Bygdsiljum specials followed by a single run through a new stage at Umeå.
Action concludes on Sunday (February 18) 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.