12 - 14 Feb 10
Categories:WRC, SWRC, PWRC
Surface:Ice and snow covered gravel
Most Recent Winner:Mikko Hirvonen (2010)
After making way for Rally Norway last year, Rally Sweden returns with star billing in 2010 as the opening round and the only true winter rally of the WRC season.
The rally had a difficult time in 2008, when mild temperatures turned stages around its central Sweden base of Karlstad into a slush-fest. This year, in an effort to deliver a proper winter landscape, much of the event has been shifted north. The start, finish and Super Special remain in Karlstad, while the Service Park is 85km away in the town of Hagfors - ideally placed for the gravel roads and forests of the Varmland and Dalarna regions.
Temperatures can drop below -25 degrees Celsius on this event but the special challenge of the frozen roads makes it one of the most popular among drivers. Despite the ice and snow-covered stages, speeds are still frighteningly quick thanks to metal studded tyres which bite through the soft surface into the hard-packed ground below.
The event also features snow banks which drivers use as soft barriers on which to 'lean' their cars around corners. There are plenty of hazards, though. Hit a snow bank at the wrong speed and it can bite back, filling radiators with snow or sucking the car in completely. If this happens, the driver and co-driver reach for the shovels they are required to carry on board.
As with the fast gravel roads of neighbouring Finland, local talent prevails here, and the winners' list looks like a Scandinavian phone book. To succeed in Sweden, you need a sublime combination of commitment, fingertip feel and lightning reactions.
Much of the route. With the exception of the Karlstad Super Special, only two of the stages from 2008 remain. The rest is a mix of brand new routes and tests used in previous years when the rally went further north.