Rally Sweden, the only full snow event of the season is only two weeks away. In the past years a number of stage cancellations have occured. Let’s check out how this year’s route differs from the previous editions.
History of cancelled stages
In Rally Sweden 2016 the organizers were surprised by a winter with very little snow. Some stages were repaired at the last moment but some got cancelled. The cancelled stages Kirkenær, Rämmen, Lesjöfors, Fredriksberg and Hagfors Sprint were already dropped for 2017 and are not included this year either.
In 2017 there were no problems with snow, but the fast new WRC cars took the organizers by surprise when the winning average speed on the newly added Knon stage was as high as 137.8 km/h. Promptly the second run was canceled, knowing it would be faster than the first one. This decision had an effect also on Rally Finland, which was forced to add chicanes to its route, which was by then already approved by FIA.
The 2018 route
The main structure of this year’s Rally Sweden route is quite similar to last year. The rally is based at Torsby but begins 100 kms away with the Karlstad super special on Thursday evening. The super special has another repeat on Saturday night, remembered well from last year when Thierry Neuville dramatically wrecked the front suspension of his Hyundai and lost the win.
The Friday leg crosses the border to Norway like last year with the same stages but the order of them reshuffled. The Röjden stage was last year especially rough on the Toyota Yarises, as Latvala hit a compression heavily on the first run and Hänninen went off into a tree on the second run, although the Citroen drivers had also their moments on that stage.
Röjden was also tough for Kris Meeke in 2016, damaging his suspension. Meanwhile, Svullrya driven in the opposite direction in watery conditions caused some slighter action for Eric Camilli, Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen.
Friday ends with the first run of the power stage Torsby like last year, but the stage itself is changed, having 5 kms of new in the beginning, before joining the 2014 version, ending finally like last year.
As everyone probably expected, the hyper fast Knon is removed from the Saturday leg. It is replaced with Torntorp, a stage last driven in 2014. It also bore the title Torsby back in 2013, although it has nothing to do with the current Torsby stage. Similarly, Hagfors is returned to its 2013 format, driven then under the title Värmullsåsen, sharing the last 12 kms with last year’s version, being now the second-longest stage of the rally at 23.4 kms.
Saturday has of course one of the favourite stages of the whole season, Vargåsen. It had been driven in the same form for years, before having its last 10 kms cut off for 2017, which is the format used this year as well. This video shows Vargåsen’s infamous Colin’s Crest, Kris Meeke’s off into the ditch on live TV (and also the aforementioned Neuville’s misfortune on the Karlstad super special).
This year, after the second visit to the Karlstad Super special there’s a new stage added to the end of the day, Torsby sprint, covering the last 3 spectator-friendly kms of the Torsby stage. This makes it three runs on the said section over the course of the rally, ending each day there, close to the service park. The sprint stage differs from the long stage by its very beginning, consisting of a hairpin left that was included in last year’s version, but not on the long version this year.
The Sunday is the same as last year. Before the power stage Torsby, there’s a repeat over Likenäs, which is the stage where Ogier spun last year.
The snow conditions
The organizers are serious about not having to cancel stages because of road condition. As of November, there was already road repairs on the Torsby stage. By then it looked well snowy.
As of January the snow situation still looked very good. However, by writing this post the weather is already getting milder with lots of snow melting. Let’ s hope for the best.
All in all the route looks good, if quite similar to last year(s). The 100 km per direction liaison for one super special, twice in the rally, seems ridiculous, but maybe having the rally in the city is what keeps it alive. However, ending each day of the rally near the service park is great, especially for the power stage, being one of the few rallies where the podium celebrations occur at the rally headquarters.
(cover photo from Toyota UK Flickr)