The Rally Sweden is one of the jewels of the WRC calendar. It is popular with both fans and drivers alike; drivers often count snow and ice among their favourite surfaces. This year, moreover, the new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 scored its first victory in the World Rally Championship (WRC2 category) in Sweden. Put yourself in Oliver Solberg's shoes and test your skills in the snow in the next episode of the Škoda Motorsport eChallenge.
The Rally Sweden, first held in 1950, is one of the oldest rallies in the world. It is also the only rally on the WRC calendar running entirely on snow and ice, making it a unique spectacle among fans. In the pursuit of perfect winter conditions, the event moved north to the university town of Umeå in 2022. The Swedish rally is run exclusively on studded tyres, which provide remarkable grip, but drivers have to get used to their specific behaviour. When temperatures hover around zero, the studs soon reach the gravel base and the exposed gravel then rips them out of the tyres, leaving drivers with little traction; conversely, when temperatures drop as low as -25°C the mechanics find it particularly challenging to service the cars in the outdoor service area.
Driving on snow and ice has its own hallmarks, especially in the deep Swedish forests. Fast sections, where you need courage and a steady hand on the wheel, alternate with technical passages where you need to get the rhythm right as you flip the car from one tight skid to the next. Snow and ice are really challenging in terms of car control.
We asked Emil Lindholm, who has plenty of experience of Swedish rallies with both the Fabia Rally2 evo and Fabia RS Rally2, about his real-life rally experience.
What makes the Rally Sweden so special?
It is the only truly winter rally on the WRC calendar. There are high snow barriers along the track and the stages are really fast and smooth, which is also different to some of the other rallies on the calendar. It's definitely a completely different type of rally.
What is the key to success in Sweden?
As well as using the snow barriers correctly, you also need to be gentle on the tyres. When driving through the second passes you often get down onto the gravel base where you start to lose studs. Then you have to be careful, especially when braking, not to destroy the tyres completely.
Is there anything specific about driving on studded tyres? Is it comparable to gravel?
It certainly is. You have to really load the studded tyre to make it work and the studs bite into the ice. Only then does it have the right grip. That's why sometimes you feel like it's slipping, but when you accelerate, suddenly the tyre starts to grip. It's sometimes hard to adapt to that. But when you can do that, the drive is similar to the one on gravel. But the changes in grip levels are more significant; the grip level is much greater in rutted tracks with firm ground than on loose snow outside.
Do you have any driving tricks to be fast in Sweden? Is it better to drive clean or lean on snow barriers sometimes?
It's definitely better to help yourself by leaning on the snow barrier sometimes, but you have to do it right. If you hit it too hard on the exit of a corner, it's very easy to lose a second or even two. It's better to drive cleanly and just occasionally lean lightly on the snow on the exit to straighten your car out for the straight after the corner.
How to set the car up properly here?
In Sweden, the car must be set up so that it is responsive and easy to turn. Studded tyres are specific with a small amount of play in the studs and a sensitive car allows you to correct this. Grip is also important, so we drive a softer car to maximise grip. A softer car is also gentler on the tyres, which is good for speed on longer sections.
Škoda Motorsport eChallenge Sweden
- When does it take place? 11. - 15.03.2023
- Number of special stages: 8
- Total rally lengt: 63 km
- What platform? We will be racing in the DiRT Rally 2.0 on PC, Playstation and Xbox
- How can I get involved? After starting the game and creating profile, find the “Škoda ECHALLENGE” event and select Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo. You can do your run anytime during the event
- Event link: https://dirtrally2.dirtgame.com/clubs/club/295041
- Toksport livery (only for PC): https://bit.ly/dirtlivery
- Prize for the winner: Fabia RS Rally2 T-shirt, Škoda paper notebook and Škoda glass mug. The contest rules can be found here.
We wish good luck to all competitors!