Ral­ly­ing is noth­ing new to us Ki­wis; in fact, it’s fair to say that we’ve had a long-last­ing love af­fair with the sport. Mostly, this love af­fair is based on the noise and vi­o­lence of slid­ing down a gravel or tar­mac road at 150kph, dodg­ing trees. The risk and skill in­volved in ral­ly­ing are pal­pa­ble, and no more so than in the World Rally Cham­pi­onship (WRC), in which the level of car con­trol is su­per­hu­man and the ma­chines defy physics, even when con­di­tions are favourable. But once a year, the cham­pi­onship turns up the heat at Rally Swe­den and has its very own bal­let on ice!

Ral­ly­ing is in the DNA of those in the Nordic states, and Nordic driv­ers have had an ice-like grip on Rally Swe­den for as long as any­one can re­mem­ber. Un­doubt­edly a high­light of the WRC cham­pi­onship, it presents a unique ar­ray of chal­lenges and thrills that are un­ri­valled by any other rally in the com­pe­ti­tion, as it’s the only full win­ter rally on the WRC cal­en­dar. Tam­ing a WRC ma­chine on the ice and snow re­quires a spe­cial ap­proach un­like any other. Frozen roads with a gravel base, topped with a thick layer of ice and dusted with pow­dered snow pro­duce the fastest av­er­age speed of any rally in the cham­pi­onship — yep, that’s right!

With tem­per­a­tures dip­ping as low as –25°C, the abil­ity to tackle the cold comes cour­tesy of clever adap­ta­tions and tech­nol­ogy, mak­ing the blast through the frozen forests an en­joy­able one. Out­wardly, the cars ap­pear pretty sim­i­lar to those set up for gravel, and they are, ex­cept for the ob­vi­ous stud­ded win­ter tyres lurk­ing un­der the guards. This tech­nol­ogy, pro­duced by Miche­lin, con­sists of nar­row, hard com­pound rub­ber equipped with 384 tung­sten-car­bide spikes per tyre, pro­vid­ing in­cred­i­ble lev­els of grip. The spikes are 20mm long, yet only 6.5mm pro­trudes out­side the tyre. To get the best out of the grip on of­fer, ag­gres­sive driv­ing is in or­der, with driv­ers ac­cel­er­at­ing and brak­ing hard to push the studs into the ice.

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