Tue 01 Mar 2022

View from the service park - Sweden

There was something cool about standing on the most northerly right-hander in the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship. Very cool. And very snowy.

Sweden made a most welcome return to the WRC last weekend. Missing from the schedule due to Covid-19 restrictions last season, landing into Rally Sweden meant everything was right with February once more.

Last weekend marked the debut of Rally Sweden Evo2 with the move north from Värmland to the chillier climes of Umeå warmly received. And what a place it was.

Especially standing on the right-hander just north of Botsmark on Friday afternoon’s run of the Kamsjön stage.

This was what we’d been waiting for, the chance to see Rally1 cars demonstrating their full force in one of the season’s most inhospitable spots.

The scene was set with winter all around, the smell of wood fires mingling with burned sausage and the feint buzz of snowmobiles ferrying folk from corner to corner. Crucially for round two, toes and the ends of fingers couldn’t be felt and inhaling the near Arctic-spec air delivered a wake-up call all of its own.

Back to the corner and all attention was focused towards the apex when Kalle Rovanperä arrived. And this, in a microcosm, was where the 21-year-old Finn did what his father had done 21 years earlier.

Braking for the corner, the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 settled itself in the ruts beneath it and rode out of them beautifully. The balance in the car looked fabulous – the result was throttle and quite possibly all 500+ horsepower being deployed at the exit as the stage, the rally and the season turned geographically south.

It was a six or seven-second graphic demonstration of why and how it won’t be long for Rally1 to be the 50-year benchmark for speed and ability of a world class rally car.

It was also a demonstration of Finland’s best chance to end two decades of hurt as Rovanperä looks to become the first Finn to win the title since Marcus Grönholm in 2002.

The action in Sweden was second-to-none. And so was the Skagen Toast.

I must admit, I’m a recent convert (recent like last Thursday), but from here on in I think prawns, mayo and caviar on toast is really the only sensible way to start the day. So embracing of the Swedish cuisine am I, I might even venture towards some pickled herring next year…..

Marabou chocolate is, of course, a Swedish staple and was consumed copiously to keep out the cold last week.

It’s fair to say, Rally Sweden has been on something of a rollercoaster ride in the last few years, but last weekend it was very much back on the upward trajectory.

Umeå was a fabulous host city with plenty of hotels and restaurants and the roads provided a fascinating challenge as well as a blank canvas – and an opportunity for painting pictures to illustrate the Rovanperä family history.

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