Rally Sweden relocation endorsed as new deal is announced

World Rally Championship drivers have given Rally Sweden’s new base in Umea the thumbs up, with Toyota Gazoo Racing Team Principal Jari-Matti Latvala praising the “good job” by organisers.
Rally Sweden relocation endorsed as new deal is announced

A lack of full snow conditions for recent instalments of the event resulted in rally bosses relocating the WRC’s sole winter round this season, some 500-miles north east from the Varmland region to Umea.

The decision was rewarded with pristine stages across the three days of competition, with the new route contributing to one of the most exciting Rally Sweden instalments in recent memory.

So impressed were WRC Promoters that a new contract has been signed, safeguarding its involvement until 2024. WRC event director Simon Larkin said it had been “a resounding success”, with Rally Sweden’s CEO Glenn Olsson proudly adding: “I think we have delivered high above everyone's expectations.”

In the post-event press conference, those views were shared by the top three drivers, including runner-up Thierry Neuville who secured Hyundai’s first podium of the 2022 season in Umea. “Any driver would confirm that the move to the north is definitely a good move in terms of winter conditions, snow conditions,” said the Belgian.

“In terms of the characteristics of the stages the stages in the south were probably more spectacular [visually] and I probably enjoyed them more, but at the end once you have your helmet on and you have to go flat out even a boring stage can get interesting.”

Asked for his views, Latvala said: “I think the location is honestly very good. The stages are very close to the service park here in the city of Umea, I mean less than half an hour you are in the stages.

“And then I think the city itself is very nice, it’s a very nice atmosphere. A lot of snow, some stages are very, very fast. I think in the future we can find in the area some more technical sections because I heard SS9, which was cancelled [due to moving herds of reindeer in the area], was supposed to be the best stage of this rally.

“So I think thanks to the organisers, they have done a good job, this was a good place to be to do the rally and I think it’s good to be here in the future,” he added.

Some had predicted Rally Sweden could inherit the WRC’s fastest round mantle for highest average speeds - but victor Kalle Rovanpera argued against the benefit of incorporating long straights.

“Generally I would say, at least for me, it was quite an enjoyable event,” said the young Finn. “Of course, it’s always good that we had proper snow conditions for the winter rally, so it was good that we come a bit more north from the down [Varmland region].

“Overall, really fast stages, some of them were a bit too fast in some sections maybe, maybe a bit too fast and boring but other than that I would say nice stages and a difficult rally,” added the early Championship leader.

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