05 Feb 08
After a relatively snow-free opening to the season on Rallye Monte Carlo, the second round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship takes crews north to Scandinavia and a traditional winter rally in the barren countryside of central Sweden.
The Uddeholm Swedish Rally is renowned for its ice-bound loose surface tracks, huge snow banks that line the roads and freezing temperatures which, in recent years, have plunged in excess of -20║C.
Despite a frozen road surface which can be difficult even to stand on, Rally Sweden has always been one of the fastest rallies in the series thanks to the aggressively spiked tyres fitted to each car.
Tungsten-tipped steel studs protruding from each tyre bite into the icy surface, providing amazing grip, while the practise of 'leaning' cars into the snow banks that line the forest tracks helps guide them around corners at maximum speed. Unsurprisingly, the event suits snow driving specialists, and only one non-Nordic driver - Sebastien Loeb - has won the rally in its 57-year history.
Tyre selection used to be a critical factor on this event. Teams experimented with different stud lengths, tread patterns and rubber compounds to suit conditions that ranged from full snow or sheet ice, to thawed sections of exposed gravel. This year, however, as part of the sport's new tyre regulations, everybody will use identical Pirelli Sottozero studded tyres. Anti deflation mousse is banned, but each car can carry two spares.
The event continues to be based from Karlstad, in Sweden's Varmland region, but this season's visit features a significantly revised format, since some 60 per cent of the stages are new compared with recent years.