Instead of snow, it was usually sparks flying off the studded tyres, there were no snowbanks for the drivers to lean on to and the shovels for digging the cars out of the snow could’ve been left in the service zone as well. Still, in its unusual form, the Rally Sweden was far from uninteresting. This year, the organizers had to shorten it to 11 stages before the rally even started and two more (opening super special stage in Karlstadt and penultimate stage Likenäs) had to be sacrificed during the event. This brought the length of the rally’s timed part to less than 150 kilometres. The shorter it was, the more intensive were the battles on the frozen tarmac with treacherous ice sheets, often covererd with water.
There were nine crews with ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 cars on the starting line, with Finnish duo of Emil Lindholm and Mikael Korhonen taking the lead from the very beginning. Of the Friday’s four stages, they took three fastest times in WRC3 category, seconds ahead of the field, eventually moving to the lead of the whole Rally2 group. On Saturday, Lindholm was mostly fighting for seconds against another Finn, Jari Huttunen on Hyundai i20 Rally2, who in the end got 3.4 seconds ahead of him. The decision was left to the Sunday’s only stage, 21.19 km long powerstage Likenäs 2. It was close, but in the end, Lindholm had to settle “just” for the second place in his class. “Just five seconds behind the category leader and second best time in the whole Rally2 group. I’m happy!”, said Lindholm about the result.
For Oliver Solberg, who runs in the WRC3 category with ŠKODA Motorsport factory support, the Rally Sweden was a debut with ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo in the WRC series. He was steadily keeping in the top 5 and even scored a victory in one stage, two runner-up times and one third-best time. He especially enjoyed the battle with Swede Johan Kristoffersson, driving a Volkswagen Polo GTI Rally2. In the rallycross championship, Kristoffersson is a teammate of Olivers father, Petter Solberg. While on Friday night, Solberg was nearly six seconds behind Kristoffersson, after changing the setup of the car he managed to get ahead, keep a one-second lead and end the Saturday night third in his category.
“The first day was challenging, but we did some changes on the car and on Saturday, it went really great. FABIA Rally2 evo was nice to drive. We could push and post great times”, described Solberg. However, the final stage on Sunday brought a slow puncture of rear-left tyre, which cost Solberg around two minutes and stopped him from finishing the beautiful battle. Even so, he managed to prove his skills in his first hot outing with a ŠKODA car, and he is set to follow on in the next European round of WRC – Rally de Portugal.
In the WRC2, a 2017 WRC 2 champion Pontus Tidemand was behind the wheel of a FABIA Rally2 evo. Out of the nine stages, he posted the second-best time five times and he ended up third, less than 15 seconds behind Christian Veiby in the second place. Other successful ŠKODA drivers were Eerik Pietarinen from Finland (4th in WRC3) or last year’s Junior ERC champion, Filip Mareš from Czech Republic (6th in WRC3).