There’s nothing quite like the challenge of Rally Sweden, round two of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia. Watching a World Rally Car balanced on the edge at close to 200kp/h is one of the finest sights in motorsport. And, for the drivers, it’s one of the biggest thrills of the year.
Four studded tyres offer tremendous grip through the rock-hard ice surface beneath them, while the snow banks lining the route are often used to keep the car on the straight and narrow - allowing the drivers to attack corners a gear higher than they would on any other loose-surface event. Rally Sweden rewards those who are willing to risk everything. But beware, those snow banks can bite back and swallow World Rally Cars whole.
For the first time this year, Thursday’s shakedown stage will take on a much greater significance than before. Now known as the Qualifying Stage, crews will be permitted two runs at the 4.3-kilometre test (Free Practice) within a two-hour time frame (08:00hrs-10:00hrs). After that, they will start a single run of the stage in championship order, running through with two-minute intervals. The fastest driver of all the Priority One and Priority Two drivers will decide where they want to run on the road, with the second fastest driver choosing second all the way down to the slowest time from the final Priority driver. This stage will be timed to the thousandth of a second.
With that decided, and following the popular superspecial in Karlstad on Thursday night, the battle will really commence. And head straight across the border and into Norway. And they head across the border at speed as well. Friday’s opening stage is Mitandersfors, which starts in Sweden and finishes in Norway.
And, once the cars are in Norway they will stay there for a day’s rallying centred on the town of Kongsvinger. The weekend is business as usual for Rally Sweden, including such classics as Vargasen, Sagen and Fredriksberg on Saturday and Lesjofors, Rammen and Hagfors on Sunday. Saturday also includes two runs through the Hagfors Sprint stage, while the event ends with the 4.66-kilometre Power Stage on Sunday.
There are 24 stages on Rally Sweden, totaling 349.16 competitive kilometres. The event also includes the second round of the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship and a Swedish national rally running behind the main field.
Next page: So who’s going to win?