High-speed ice dance.
The Sweden Rally is like a fast-motion Winter’s Tale. With few exceptions, the special stages are always 100 per cent covered in snow and ice. The drivers race through the snow-covered forests of the Värmland on special seven-millimetre-long spiked tyres and achieve higher speeds than in many other rallies. The cold presents an additional challenge: extreme demands are made on the engines in temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius. No other event is held in the snow; the Sweden Rally is the only real winter rally on the calendar. For that reason alone, Sweden is an indispensable element of the world championship.
DatE: 5 till 8 February 2014
There’s a group of people who are often overlooked during a rally, and that’s the co-drivers. They are, of course, unjustly overlooked, because rallying is a team sport, and without a co-driver’s very quick instructions, it would be impossible for a driver to drive a WRC vehicle at high speed. After all, you’re sure to run into trouble if you’re driving at 160 km/h without any idea of whether you need to steer left or right after the next corner.
Miikka Anttila about the Rally Sweden.
What’s different about Rally Sweden?
It’s the only snow rally in the calendar and how it pans out is very dependent on the weather. Last year, the ground had been frozen for weeks before there was any snowfall, so the substratum was very hard. Then lots of soft snow fell just before the rally started. As a result, there was a hard and icy substratum in the car tracks that offered a lot of grip, but with soft snow all around. I think that’s why the Scandinavian drivers didn’t do so well last year in comparison to Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier. The Scandinavians tend to have more of an oversteering driving style and like to let the rear of the vehicle stick out. This meant their rear wheels were often on the soft snow, which meant they had less grip. The two Sébs have an unspectacular but clean style of driving, so they were driving on the ice with good grip all the time.
What do you have to pay particular attention to in Sweden?
With the winter conditions being perfect last year, it was very important to stick to the icy ideal line. In previous years when there was also a fair bit of mud, the tyres also had an important part to play. You have to be very careful about not overusing them and ruining the spikes.
What has been your finest moment in Sweden?
Jari-Matti and I succeeded in winning Rally Sweden for the first time in 2008. That’s definitely my best moment in Sweden so far.
And what about your worst moment in Sweden?
In 2006, Jari-Matti and I were driving a Group N Subaru and suffered engine damage early on, after the second special stage. That was a real disappointment. But otherwise, Sweden is one of our favourite rallies.