SWEDISH RALLY – Feb 2005, Round 2
The only true snow rally of the WRC calendar. You will witness the cars travelling at breathtaking speed over the frozen tracks of central Sweden. Second in speed only to the Rally Finland, the action is mind blowing. Whatever rallysport knowledge you possess, nothing will compare to the experience of Sweden. The incredibly icy conditions are tamed in part by the use of studded snow tyres that give the cars more grip and control than you will have at walking speed! The awesome skills of the drivers are further demonstrated by their calculated use of the road-side snowbanks to aid cornering and braking. Unfortunately the reaction of the snowbanks cannot be guaranteed, particularly when soft as in 2004, often leading to the cars being dragged into the bank further or beyond into the trees.
The event is based in Kaarlstad and the action is centred round Hagfors to the north (140km) to enhance the likelihood of snow. The weather can be quite varied with temperatures in 2003 dropping to -27 C (minus), yet in 2004 the temperature ranged between only –3 C (minus) and +5 C.
The villages around Hagfors and the Swedes compensate the weather with a warm welcome, which is best experienced around a campfire on the stages or in one of several marquees hosting spit roasts, beer and live music.
Amazingly Loeb became the first non-Scandinavian to win the Swedish Rally in 2004 despite both Martin and Gronholm being generally quicker. 2005 will probably see Gronholm reinstated to the top of the podium when he is more settled with the new Peugeot 307.