Two WRC legends will turn back the clock when they go head-to-head at Rally Sweden’s opening show stage in Karlstad on Thursday night (14 February).
Nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb and Marcus Grönholm, twice a title winner, will face off in the final heat at the spectacular 1.90km super special around the town’s trotting track.
The pair fought many battles, notably in 2006 and 2007 when Grönholm finished runner-up to the Frenchman in the championship. They were involved in the second closest rally finish in WRC history when the Finn edged Loeb by 0.3sec in New Zealand in 2007.
Loeb, who won his last title in 2012, is driving the second of his six-round campaign in a Hyundai i20. Grönholm, champion in 2000 and 2002, is making a guest appearance at his favourite WRC round as a belated 50th birthday present to himself.
The Finn, whose last WRC appearance was nine years ago, hoped to celebrate his half-century in 2018 but was unable to source a car. Now he has a privately-entered Toyota Yaris for the second round of the season, which begins nine days after his 51st birthday.
Grönholm (pictured below with Toyota boss Tommi Mäkinen) and co-driver Timo Rautiainen’s return means the winners of the last 17 WRC titles are in action this weekend. He won the crown in 2002, while 2003 winner Petter Solberg competes in the supporting historic rally.
Loeb won for the next nine seasons before Sébastien Ogier began his unbroken run of six successes in 2013.