Thursday | 30 Jan 2014

Sweden countdown: This year's stages

While the host town of Karlstad, the Hagfors service park and virtually all the stages are familiar, it is events in the Russian city of Sochi that prompted the biggest change to this year’s Swedish snowfest.

A clash with the Winter Olympic Games prompted rally organisers to bring forward the rally timetable by 24 hours. So shakedown takes place next Wednesday morning, the start is in Karlstad that evening and the town hosts the finish on Saturday night.

So what can we look forward to in the frozen forests?

Sparks will fly at Karlstad's super special stage

The first highlight comes on Wednesday evening when Karlstad’s trotting track is the venue for the opening duels. After a firework display, sparks will really fly when drivers race two-at-a-time around a 1.90km track more used to horsepower of a different kind.

And if they don’t find that perfect line, they will get a second chance when the test is repeated on Friday evening.

In contrast to 2013 when Norway’s stages were on the last day, competitors cross the border in Thursday’s opening leg.

They face two identical loops of two stages there, sandwiched in the morning and afternoon by a new test which ends in Torsby ski stadium on the Swedish side of the border.

There’s only 62km of competition in the 482km route, but there is no service during the day so mechanical issues could be costly.

Christmas comes late in Sweden

On Friday the cars take to the forests east of Hagfors where classics such as Rämmen and Fredriksberg are on the agenda, as well as the town’s stadium sprint test. A loop of four stages is covered twice before the journey south to Karlstad.

It’s Saturday’s final leg which is the biggie. There’s more than 140km of competition crammed into four stages, each run twice.

It includes Vargåsen and the famous Colin’s Crest, named in memory of Colin McRae. As an aside to the battle for points, a special award will be presented to the driver making the longest jump there. Will the 37m record be bettered?

And there’s also Värmullsåsen, which ends on a ski slope in walking distance of Hagfors centre. After exiting woods midway up the slope, cars drop downhill through several hairpins to a jump before the finish.

The second pass forms the Power Stage, with bonus points to the fastest three drivers.