Next year’s Rally Sweden (13 - 16 February), the WRC’s only pure winter round, has taken a major step to ensure more stable road conditions for the early starters during the opening cross-border leg.
Competitors in the historic rally have traditionally followed the WRC stars through Friday morning’s opening loop of speed tests in Norway and Sweden, before the main rally returned for the afternoon’s repeat pass.
The early starters in the WRC event lost time in the morning by carving a clean route through the snowy forests. They felt handicapped by having to repeat the job in the afternoon after the historic drivers, who follow a different line to the World Rally Cars, dragged slush back onto the road.
In 2020 the historic event tackles the stages after both passes of the WRC rally. It means those drivers who score well in the opening round at Rallye Monte-Carlo, and therefore start at the head of the running order, will have less dirt to contend with.
“This will ensure more even driving conditions for the leading starters in the WRC rally in the second pass of the stages,” said clerk of the course Stig Rune Kjernsli.
In Saturday’s leg, when the WRC stars start in reverse classification order, the historic rally returns to its regular slot between the main event’s two loops.
More than half next year’s route is different to this season, including an all-new special stage close to Sweden’s border with Norway, which is driven twice on Friday.
Several familiar tests feature new sections, while others not driven in February’s event return to an itinerary in which 54.1 percent of the stage kilometres is new.
Karlstad’s trotting track provides the traditional opening on Thursday evening, ahead of Friday’s cross border leg which features two venues in Norway and two in Sweden.
The 18.94km Nyckelvattnet, which starts on the Swedish side of the border, has never been used in the rally, and the 20.89km Finnskogen returns for the first time since 2012. They replace Svullrya and Röjden.
The classic Vargåsen, featuring the famous Colin’s Crest, is the highlight of Saturday and includes a new opening half which is unused since 2001.
The leg also includes the return of Torntorp, a revised Hagfors which features roads not driven since 2008, a second pass through the Karlstad test and a sprint stage which ends at the entrance to Torsby’s service park.
Sunday’s finale is unchanged, featuring two passes through Likenäs and the closing Torsby Wolf Power Stage. The 19 stages cover 301.26km and the full itinerary can be viewed here.