Recce Updates McKleins Rally Tips have now been updated after our rally recce. You will be able to find the latest insights highlighted, to give you the most up-to-date overview for this rally.
Welcome to Rally Sweden, the Winter Wonderland of WRC. Rally Sweden is the championships only genuine winter rally, where the stars of WRC tackle frozen forest roads topped with ice and snow. Surprisingly to some its one of the fastest WRC rallies of them all. To achieve these mind-blowing speeds the cars use special studded tyres, offering phenomenal grip. Each tyre has around 380 tungsten tipped studs protruding 7mm from the rubber, its these studs that bite into the ice. Overseas visitors usually arrive to the rally by air, flying into either of the main International airports at Oslo or Stockholm and picking up a rental car from there. Oslo is roughly two hours drive away and Stockholm around four.
If its your first visit to Rally Sweden you must make sure you have the appropriate clothing for everything a Nordic winter can serve up. The temperatures can drop as low as -30°C, however in recent years the weather has been a lot milder – too mild in fact for the rally – with melting ice causing major problems on the stages. This is the main reason for the organisers shifting the Service Park from Hagfors to Torsby and running stages further north, where conditions are typically better.
Spectators visiting the stages of Rally Sweden should be aware that only a few designated forest access roads are snow-ploughed in winter time and these are the only ones to use. It is advisable not to attempt driving on roads that are not designated spectator access roads. There are always ample parking areas set up beside the stages and once you have parked your car you do have the possibility to walk in the forests to find the best spectating locations.
Norwegian and Swedish rally fans tend to be some of the most hardy, knowledgeable and welcoming in the world. They create a special atmosphere on the stages and are normally very happy to invite foreign visitors to share some food and drinks stage-side.
Accommodation close to the Service Park in Torsby is limited and hard to find. You should try to book early and also be prepared to drive long distances from your accommodation to the stages.
Shakedown: Skalla 7.23 km
This is a brand new shakedown stage close to the Service Park. The best spectating locations are all close to the stage start, where the road goes uphill. From 0.2km – 1.5km you will find some good flowing corners in an open area, perfect for watching. This has all been set up very nicely by the organisers with plenty of safe spectating areas set up in this section and even some hot drinks and snacks will be available too. There is also a very good location for spectating at the mid-point of the stage. From 3.2km to 3.6km are a series of corners on a narrow road culminating in a fairly open right-hand junction onto a wider road. There is easy access to the junction using the main E16 road, then turning north 6km west of Torsby. The Shakedown stage does have a decent covering of snow with a thick ice layer covering the road surface.
SSS1/15: Karlstad Super-Special Stage 1.9km
This, now traditional, Thursday night super special stage in the city of Karlstad features a lot of activities for spectators. Beyond the rallying, the entertainment includes various live music bands, a dramatic freestyle motocross show, jumping snowmobiles and a fireworks display. Before the action gets underway there is a WRC drivers autograph session and the ceremonial start.
The stage itself might be a short one, but its very fast and is generally considered one of the best super special stages in WRC. Its basically a blast within the confines of a flat horse-trotting track with two cars lining up side-by-side to race one another. Adding to the sense of theatre is a jump on a crossover bridge with flame-throwers going off when the cars are airborne.
Spectating at the Karlstad super special is easy because there is only one, albeit big, spectator area. The views across the stage are excellent and there are even huge TV screens to show the bits you dont see.
Food and drink:
In and around Torsby there are several options for eating, however considering the relatively small size of the town one can expect all the restaurants to be extremely busy during the rally week.
Karlstad has it all from fast food to gourmet restaurants. For any rally fan a trip to Karlstad would not be complete without a visit to Alfies Pizzeria. You never know who youll bump into at Alfies because its always full of rally people, so a reservation is recommended.
The majority of the opening day of Rally Sweden takes place in Norway. Big crowds will be out on the stages so it is advisable to arrive at your chosen locations as early as possible. The main border-crossing road from Torsby into Norway is quite slow and when it is full of rally traffic one should allow extra time for travel. If you plan to be out all day in the forests maybe consider taking some firewood and a simple disposable barbeque.
SS2/5: Röjden 18.47km
This stage actually starts in Sweden and crosses the border into Norway after 1.7km, then back again to Sweden after 13.4km. There are three very good spectating areas in Röjden. The first comes near the mid-point at 8.5km. Here you see the cars absolutely flat out on a long straight before they have to negotiate a little jump followed by a 90° right-hand corner. The access to and parking at this location is very straightforward.
The next point is just 1.5km further in to the stage, where you will find an open area on top of a hill. At this point there are several tricky corners which you can freely walk between for a variation in viewing spots. The car parking here is very well organised in a snow-cleared field adjacent to the stage.
At 16.3km comes the final spectator point and its a good one. The cars have actually crossed the border again, back into Sweden and at this point they are travelling at top speed into a very tight left-hand corner. Judging the correct braking point when the stage is run as SS5 is particularly tricky, because conditions may have changed from morning to afternoon. In recent years many drivers have misjudged this and have turned into the left-hand corner too fast, crashing into the snow banks on the outside. Very recent snowfall has left the Röjden stage with lovely winter conditions, even a few decent snowbanks in places.
Food and drink:
At the first two spectator points there will be stalls selling burgers and hot-dogs as well as hot drinks. Beyond that, the nearest town to the stage is Östmark, about 15km away.
SS3/6: Hof-Finnskog 20.6km
This is a completely new stage, never used on Rally Sweden before. At 2.74km you will find a junction left, where the road changes from narrow to wide. This should provide some stunning action. If you continue on for 0.7km there are some really fast open corners which you can spectate from quite high up on a banking. For access to these points you should drive past the road that leads to the stage start and when you arrive at the next junction, turn right. Follow this road to the stage.
Food and drink:
You will not find anything here, the closest village is Flisa, which will have a few options.
SS4/7: Svullrya 20.45km
Run in the opposite direction to 2015, there is really only one great place to recommend going to for spectating. Take the most southerly point on the stage, with an access road coming in at 11.8km. From here you have two main options:
(1) you can walk 0.5km further into the stage to see a big jump.
Or (2) you have easy viewing in an area of the stage from 10km-12km. In this section the cars zip in and out of the forest tackling a huge variety of corners.
One thing you should be aware of is that this area is mega popular with spectators and in 2015 the queue of parked cars extended over several kilometres, backing up to the Norway/Sweden border.
Food and drink:
In 2015 there was nothing available at this main spectator point on the stage.
SS8 & Powerstage: Torsby 16.42km
Spectators are very well catered for at the Torsby stage. SS8 will be run in darkness and for this stage the best place to head to is the final section, which runs alongside the runway of Torsby airport. There is good access and ample spectator parking near the finish, as well as live PA commentary, so you can follow what is going on in the rally. The penultimate corner of the stage is a great place to watch. Here you can stand high up on the exterior banking and see the cars braking for a left-hand corner. The road surface here is actually asphalt so you might see sparks fly from the tungsten studs if the ice layer is broken. What you definitely will see are lots of flashguns popping because this is a very popular corner at night for the regular WRC photographers.
This is also a good location to watch when Torsby is run as the Powerstage. You will be able to see the cars in action and then walk to see the live TV Powerstage podium presentation.
Another option for spectating in daylight would be at 14.95km, a brisk walk uphill from the finish. In this section the stage runs through a large open quarry, where you can see several corners and a jump, in an arena style setting. It is all very manmade but specifically done for spectators.
Food and drink:
The large fuel station/service area at a roundabout on the E45 is a good place to go. There is a restaurant there, a small café and a supermarket. Also more-or-less opposite the roundabout is the workshop of the 2003 WRC Champion Petter Solberg. Depending on how well you know Petter, he may invite you in for a coffee.
After a long day over the border in Norway, the rest of the rally takes place exclusively in Sweden. Saturday in Sweden features two photographers favourites and something completely new.
SS9/12: Knon 30.7km
This is a new stage, with a small part of it last used in 2003. At 4.87km there is a very tricky right hand junction, taken at really high speed. To access it you drive north to Ekshärad and when you get to the town you make a right turn at the first junction. Then you follow this road over a bridge and turn left. After 4.7km you turn right at a bus stop (easy to miss as there are no sign posts) and continue to the next junction where you turn right. After another 5km you will reach the stage.
At the most northerly point of this stage (14.5km from the start) there is an amazing tight, right-hand hairpin, in amidst the tree line. With the trees covered in fresh snow, the scene looks very much like the Winter Wonderland visitors to Rally Sweden often desire. The access is directly from the north and the road has been ploughed to allow access.
SS10/13: Hagfors 15.87km
In recent years this stage was run as the Powerstage. There is ample parking at the stage end and the action is just a short walk away. Close to the finish the cars race down a ski-slope before tackling a huge (man-made) jump. Its an expansive open area and the steep hill provides a natural viewing amphitheatre. A good and easy option for spectating is to head straight for the last two corners and seek a view of the jump. There should be some giant TV screens and live commentary allowing you to follow the action on the stage as well as whats happening elsewhere on the rally. McKleins advice would be to venture beyond the crowds at the last few corners and jump, and take a vantage spot at the top of the ski slope instead. The cars enter this area at very high speed and you will see a long left-hand corner followed by a tricky, tight right-hand corner where many drivers get their braking wrong and slide off into the snow banks on the outside.
Elsewhere on the stage there is an excellent spectating area from 11.4km-12.5km, with the access road from the north coming in at 11.6km. This section is extremely fast, quite open and free from trees. Here you can walk to find your preferred viewing spot, escaping the crowds to enjoy the flat-out action in relative peace.
Food and drink:
Hagfors has a choice of two pizza restaurants, both offering takeaways. There is a hamburger grill kiosk at the roadside in the middle of town and a large fuel station selling some food on the roundabout closest to the stage finish.
SS11/14: Vargåsen 18.6km
This might be a shorter version of the classic Vårgasen stage, but it doesnt matter because it still retains the most famous landmark of them all. At 12.88km is Colins Crest, a massive jump named after the legendary WRC champion Colin McRae. If youve never been there before, then you really must visit this jump to see the cars truly fly. The atmosphere is electric, theres live commentary and the jumps are all measured and announced to the crowd. The driver achieving the longest jump wins the Colins Crest Award. In 2015 Hyundais Thierry Neuville set a new record with a 44-metre leap over this jump. McKleins recommendation would be to go to Colins Crest when it is run as SS11, as the light will be better to see the action.
An alternative to Colins Crest can be found 300m after the jump. Here the cars pop-out of the forest and drive fully-sideways on a fast and open left-hand corner. On a sunny day you could spectate here without needing a thick winter jacket, standing in the suns rays.
The access to both of these spots is the same. You just park in the public car parks off the main road at the village Lövåsen and walk, following the crowds for about 2km. Theres no real shortcut, however you could pay the local farmers a few Swedish Crowns and they will give you a lift on their people-carriages, towed along by quad-bikes.
Food and drink:
The locals of Lövåsen set up food and drink stalls close to the public parking area.
The route for Sunday is relatively new and quite short, allowing for an early podium ceremony within the Torsby Service Park.
SS16/17: Likenäs 21.7km
This is a new stage, never used in this direction. Many years ago it was used in the opposite direction. The stage will start on a rallycross track, which is like a big arena and will offer great access and viewing. Here you can see the rally cars sliding for quite some time, making it a fun place to watch. The access is relatively easy, you just follow the main road and when you arrive close to the stage you must follow the instructions of the marshals organising the car parking.
There is one more really good option for spectating on Likenäs, it covers a fast section from 16.5km – 16.9km. Here you can find a spot to see the cars really pushing hard through 4th and 5th gear corners, before a square right junction with good visibility. There is easy access to this point heading east straight out of the small town of Likenäs. Being the most northerly point on the whole rally, the best winter conditions should be found here.
Food and drink:
There is a small restaurant at Ambjörby Livs otherwise there will be some hot dogs and burgers for sale around the arena.