WRC Sweden happened to be on my birthday weekend this year so that was a great excuse to get the wife to pay for our first taste of snowy WRC. Rallyrod and his other half joined us as it was his birthday too and he’d been before so he should have been a good guide.
After arriving 3 hours early for the flight to Stansted and then nearly being late for the next flight due to de-icing the easyplane in Belfast, things were going well. We landed in Skavsta airport with directions to Filipstad near the rally and we were staying the first night in Stockholm – basically the opposite direction. The signposts were good enough once a few motorists reminded me which side of the road was correct. I’ve no idea why they post speed limit sign as no-one stuck to them even remotely. We found our hostel (big spenders from Ballymena) and after a plunder through the city the next day we headed for the rally hotel.
The Thursday shakedown was amazing as we got to see the top WRC drivers flying over and over the same stretch of icy road much closer than you get to stand on the main event. The rally unusually started on Thursday night under a huge array of fireworks with a superspecial in Karlstad where the rally is based. The cheers when Loeb stalled on the start line against Gronholm were deafening.
Friday was rally proper starting with 30min treks into the forests for a brief glimpse of the cars before moving to the next stage. The stages were easy enough to find and were timed enough apart to easily get a few in each day though we would have liked a few to be repeated especially where there was a 2.5Km walk to see them. Spectating points were very busy and often had merchandise stands, hot dog stalls and logs on sale for the fires. While leaving the last stage we (I) ditched the VW golf hire car on the narrow road but with 8 or 9 Swedes help lifting it out we were hammering down the road to the service for our FORD VIP experience. We were treated to a close up of the Ford mechanics changing each suspension/brakes of Marcus’ Focus costing £10K a corner followed by hanging out in the Ford hospitality tent with Mikko Hirvonen, Malcolm Wilson and a brief visit from Marcus who was hounded for autographs. Following a tour of the operation with commentary we all received complimentary back packs and hats.
Saturday we headed for Colins Crest Arena arriving nearly 2hours before FCD and it was absolutely bunged. We left early and went straight to hagfors sprint – a superspecial style stage but one at a time – and got our seats rite on a bend and watched a rally Saab and motorbikes entertaining the crowd until the WRCs arrived (the flame juggling guy impressed nobody as he had the only source of heat and was waving it in people faces).
After a dodgy start on Sunday with several stops to empty a stomach on the roadside we made it to a stage ran twice. The temperature had dropped to -27C according to the cars readout and I‘ve no reason to doubt it as it was properly baltic. Bottles of coke inside the car had frozen solid and never fully defrosted all day. I could feel my nose freezing with every breath in. We got back to the hotel in time to see the Karlstad superspecial live on eurosport (we weren’t going to make it in time). That evening the hotel allowed people to put their own videos of the event on the big screen in the bar but by that stage we were knackered and hit the jacuzzi for a couple of hours with a lot of drink.
We flew home Monday. The END.