SISU ON ICE
WRC HITS SWEDEN
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.