It is official. The uncertainty surrounding the celebration of the Rally Sweden 2020 due to lack of snow is finally over. The second appointment of the WRC calendar after Monte-Carlo, will go ahead over its scheduled four days (13th – 16th of February).
The number of stages, however, has been reduced to eleven and the overall distance to 180 kilometres. This measure is very similar to the one adopted back in 2016 when the Rally had to contend with the same issue.
It has been the only way to secure the celebration of the 68th edition of this classic race, which, over the last few years has always been challenged by the changing climate.
The person in charge of carrying out the inspection of the terrain where the Rally is due to take place has been Timo Rautiainen, the FIA’s sporting delegate. The Finnish official, who has won the Rally in five occasions himself as co-pilot of Marcus Gronholm, has agreed the sharp shortening of the race with both the teams and the promoters in order to save it from being cancelled altogether.
The cancellation of the Rally would have carried with it considerable economic losses for the organizers as well as a great upheaval for many spectators, which would have had to cancel their reservations and who are eager to watch one of the most awaited appointments of the year.
Half the distance
The solution in-extremis to save the Rally consists of keeping the scheduled four days of competition but cuts down the number of stages from 19 to 11.
Similarly, the number of kilometres has been drastically reduced from 360 to 180. This is 120km less than those initially planned for one of the most characterful rallies of the season. The Rally Sweden 2020 will thus start on Thursday the 13th of February with the traditional night ceremony and a special event in Karlstad.
Friday will be when the action really gets underway for participants with the morning stages of Hof-Finnskog and Finnskogen in Norway and the one of Nyckelvattnet back in Sweden. The day will end up with the traditional Torsby Sprint stage.
The same itinerary will be repeated on Saturday and the final day of the event will feature a double pass of the Likenas stage, the second of which will be the Wolf Power Stage. The images of the rally layout seen on the press over the last few days were truly alarming as the white blanket that normally covers the landscape this time of the year was virtually nonexistent.
For many, it brought back memories of what happened in 1990 when the unusually high temperatures meant the Rally had to be taken off that season’s calendar. As a precautionary measure, and in order to preserve in as good a condition as possible the tracks along which the rally is due to run, the Rallye Sweden 2020 Historic had already been cancelled on last Tuesday.
The threat of Canada
In any case, the permanence of Rally Sweden in future editions of the World Rally Championship is under scrutiny. Lately, the rumours of it being replaced with a new Rally in Canada have intensified.
The North American option would be a safe bet as far as snow is concerned and it would give the WRC a greater presence globally, both very important factors for the Championship promoters.
If the move finally happens, however, it would mean saying goodbye to an appointment which since 1950 has only missed the Championship in three occasions, 1979 (oil crisis), 1994 (lack of snow) and in 2009.
Images of Rally Sweden 2020: