Last year Rally Sweden relocated to Umeå to ensure more snowy conditions than in the thaw-stricken Värmland. Snow was present indeed, but the stages had a different character, alternating now between very fast and very narrow sections, involving long straights and occasional tight corners similarly to Arctic Rally of Finland. Last year’s stages were new for everyone but this year as much as 62% of the route is new. Like last year, problems with reindeers have made its changes on the itinerary.
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Cover Image by Tapio Lehtonen / Rallirinki (C)
The shakedown of Håkmark is new for this year. It’s first wide and fast-flowing, before it switches into a narrow but fast forest road and finally even narrower forest track, crawling quite sinuously at times.
The shakedown is very representative of the rally, as most of the actual stages are made up of just very wide and fast roads or very narrow forest roads. If something, junction turns are missing.
SS1+8 Umeå Sprint is familiar from last year. The beginning of the stage has just junction turn after another, with roads ranging from wide to narrow. The stage ends on the Red Barn Arena spectator section with artificial jumps and long bends. This year the stage ends earlier than last year, so the corner where Elfyn Evans went over the snowbank is not included.
Last year the surface of this stage was frozen artificially. Somehow it became more slippery with each car, with later starters losing up to 1.6 s/km.
Friday is relatively short, only 106 km of stages. But at the same time it means less road cleaning, which could be a bigger problem on the second passes after the small class cars have messed up the road.
All the forest stages are different than last year’s Friday. The two first stages from last year’s rally are not included this year at all, including the opening stage where Takamoto Katsuta and Gus Greensmith made small mistakes.
SS2+5 Brattby was run last year on Saturday with now the finish line a bit later. It is one of the most technical and slow stages of the rally.
Brattby starts on a narrow forest road. At first it’s technical but medium fast until a section on a power line service road appears at 2.6 km, being a bit more straightforwardly fast. However, after that it gets slower and more sinuous. At 6.3 km a fast passage (involving a rare jump) leads into a junction turn. The rest of the stage is a bit wider and faster in an angular way, but still technical, and actually more bumpy than the beginning.
SS3+6 Sarsjöliden was last year’s power stage. It’s overall a fast stage although there are also narrower sections and tight junction turns.
The beginning is on a quite wide road. It’s first fast-flowing over crests, then super fast / angular with just occasional tighter, but long corners. The junction at 4.9 makes the road narrower, bumpier and more technical but still quite fast. Next up is a short bit of a wide and fast road which turn suddenly into another bumpy, narrow and technical section, this time slower than the previous one. From 8.8 km onwards the stage is driven on more or less wide and very fast / angular roads, with two junction turns and a few other tighter corners, but also very long straights and flat corners.
SS4+7 Botsmark is a new stage for this year and the longest of the day at 25 km. It’s a very straightforwardly fast forest road stage with close to no technical bits at all. I would even say it’s boring! At this point even chicanes would make this stage more interesting…
The stage can be seen on this recce video but note that the route was altered after the video. At 1:01 the stage would turn right and rejoin the video at 6:08 coming from the right.
The start is on a very fast medium wide forest road but soon it turns onto a narrower one leading into a wind farm area, whose service roads are smooth and wide. The route turns a lot at the wind farm but the corners are long and rounded – to allow long service trucks access the power plants. At 6.3 km the stage turns away from the wind farm area onto a long downhill straight on a quite wide and smooth road, proceeding flat out for 2.5 km!
The rest of the stage is driven on forest roads ranging from quite narrow to quite wide, all very straightforwardly fast, where corners are either short and easy or long and rounded. There’s exceptional tight corners at 11.7 km, 13 km, 13.6 km, 17.6 km and 18.6 km in addition to the handful of junction turns – most interestingly a blind downhill junction at 14 km and a fast double junction at 16.4 km. The stage also goes up and down almost all the time, but there’s not much sharp crests or jumps.
Saturday is the longest day with 126 stage kilometres. Just like with Friday, all the forest stages are different than last year, and two of them are completely new.
SS9+12 Norrby is another new stage. It’s the shortest and most technical one of the new stages and involves some of the best corners of the whole rally.
The first 3 km are on a medium wide fast-angular road with long straights but also some deceptive corners as well as crests, even jumps. After that the road reaches a a farm and turns into a narrow forest track. A tight hairpin takes the stage soon onto a wider but still narrow forest road which is super fast with long corners. The next junction takes the stage onto a slightly bumpier road with tighter bends, but still quite long straights as well. Finally there’s yet another junction turn and acceleration on a wider road.
SS10+13 Floda is another new stage and the longest one of the rally at 28 km with many rhythm changes, including kilometre-long straights but also tight corners and some of the smallest roads of the whole rally. Originally Kamsjön from last year (the stage where Craig Breen and Emil Lindholm went off) was supposed to be in this slot, but it got cancelled because of reindeers, just like what happened to another stage last year.
The stage starts wide and very fast on a road connecting several villages. It’s flowing over huge (but not steep) crests resulting in a couple of blind corners, in addition to some tricky high-speed kinks. At 5.3 km the stage turns onto a narrower forest road which is so angular that it actually has only three square corners over three kilometres.
Next up is a yet smaller road which is quite straightforward. Then the stage turns onto a very narrow forest track at 10 km – first very technical, then faster over jumps(!). A pair of junctions takes the stage onto a slightly wider but bumpy – and again very fast – forest road. The next junction at 15 km goes again onto a very small track which is as bumpy as the previous road but more technical with tighter corners and crests but also long straights.
The stage becomes again slightly wider and smoother and hyper fast at 18.5 km. For the remaining 9.7 km you don’t have to lift the throttle on these flowing forest roads except for the three junction turns.
SS11+14 Sävar is a stage of two different characters, straightforward and sinuous. It was also a Friday stage last year.
Half of Sävar is driven on a road called Gamla Kustlandvägen that was the main way along the Swedish East coast since the middle ages and was later replaced by E4 which runs close by. In snow rally terms it’s a medium wide and undulating road, but still not the slowest one, at the sweet spot between fast-flowing and technical.
At 6.4 km the stage turns onto a smaller forest road which is very straightforwardly fast for almost three kilometres, then a bit more technical with long medium corners. A wide and super fast road is reached at 11.6 km. At 15.2 km the stage rejoins Gamla Kustlandvägen for the last 2 km.
SS15 Umeå is a longer version of the super special, driven similarly already last year. Just like on the Sprint version, the ending is now earlier but for this stage the start is now from a different direction, with a shorter acceleration to the first junction turn.
The beginning of the stage is angular but the junction turns are not as frequent as on the end section from the Sprint stage. All of the roads are wide except for the first one (just straight) and there’s also a couple of nice bends, but also very long straights. The stage also uses a narrow tunnel to go below a main road.
Sunday is relatively long with 63 km of competitive distance, but in just three stages. The stage stage where Elfyn Evans went off last year – and the stage wins were over 140 km/h – is not included this year.
SS16+17 Västervik is the fourth new stage of the rally and also the third one to exceed the 25 km mark. It’s another very fast stage, similar to Botsmark, but remarkably flat with close to no crests and with some narrower and slightly more technical sections as well. With the mileage, the rally is far from being over yet!
The stage can be seen here on this onboard, but the start isn’t until 1:16 and at 17:25 the driver turns right while they should have turned left. However, after that the stage would be just very straightforward.
Västervik begins flat in two meanings – it’s super fast but also there’s barely any crests or elevation differences. The first road is quite wide, the second one slightly narrower from 2.2 km onwards. A section with tighter long bends appears at 4.4 km, turning the pace down a notch for a while but then it’ s back to super fast again. A surprising Y-shaped junction at 8.5 km takes the stage onto a narrower road with a bit more short bends but still nothing too technical. The junction at 10 km turns again onto a slightly wider road and then even a wider and totally straight one before a double junction at 11.9 km.
Now the stage enters a section on very narrow and bumpy forest roads. Once again they are not that technical, but the narrowness makes it slower. In addition, there’s two junction turns and a couple of other slightly tighter corners. The section ends at a houseyard where the road becomes smoother and wider, leading into another double junction which is almost straight, of course depending on how it will be plowed.
The stage proceeds at 15.1 km onto a straightforward but quite narrow forest road, although wider than the previous small road. However, already at 16.5 km there is a turn onto a narrower, bumpier and slightly more technical road, only to return soon finally into very straightforwardly fast roads except for junction turns for the rest of the stage.
The rally concludes with the second run of the Umeå stage, making each day of the rally conclude at the Red Barn Arena. In my opinion it’s not the best choice for a power stage, for being such an angular and artificial stage, with the end section driven four times during the rally, but of course it’s nice for the spectators and TV.