That’s right, Canada as well as Japan is prepared to pay as much as 5 million dollars to attract the rally elite to their countries. Rally Sweden is usually the only snow event on the calendar, which means that snow and ice is required to replace it. Can Sweden, as a bastion of rallying and winter, hold on to their famous sporting event?
These news are reported just a couple of weeks before the 2016 edition of Rally Sweden, where a regular report in the local Värmland newspaper of the conditions from Rally Sweden CEO Glenn Olsson turned into a speculation of the future of the rally. Sweden is currently experiencing warm weather with temperatures above freezing, but meteorologists are expecting cold weather and snow from this weekend until the rally starts the second weekend in February. The question for Olsson is a lot more critical, and is concerning the WRC deal from 2017-2019. For Sweden to keep their rally, they have to raise their budget with 2 million SEK per year, something that is difficult with no government support.
Meanwhile Canada and Japan are preparing to take over the winter event with government support. That is necessary to move all the WRC teams halfway across the globe. Sweden has so far been financially lucky because of the lack of winter rally competition, and that they have been able to run without problems for the last 25 years. The only year they haven’t run since 1991 was in 2009, when it was replaced by Rally Norway.
The question that is always asked by us rally fans are the desirability and interest of a rally in a seemingly new region. Especially when it involves replacing an event with such spectator numbers as Rally Sweden. Sweden historically has also had several World Champions, and we see several talents rising up now. In addition several stages are run in Norway, the home of factory drivers Andreas Mikkelsen and Mads Østberg. In Canada Rally Perce-Neige is a snow rally we’ve covered here before, and Quebec as a region has about the same population as Sweden. The difference is that neighbouring Ontario is quite a lot bigger than Norway, and the US is also close enough for fans to go there on a weekend trip. The potential for huge spectator numbers are there for sure.
In Japan they also recieve huge amounts of snow in the northern parts, and the rally interest is huge. One of the snow rallies the have there is the Tsumagoi, which runs this weekend. Japan has had a gravel round of the WRC quite recently, and with Toyota returning in 2017 the interest for a home event should be back.
I’m still not sure what to think about this. Sweden is one of the legendary events of the WRC, with the 64th edition running this year. Rallying has a huge standing in Scandinavia, and several of the top drivers the last 20 years have been from Sweden, Finland and Norway. The best thing would probably be to add another winter event to the calendar, but then it would be difficult to keep as many teams as we have today. It’s also possible to scratch a European gravel event, since we are a bit spoiled with the amount of rally events here anyways. I would rather see a winter event in Canada or Japan than rally Poland.
After a heroic achievement from the organizers of Rally Sweden in this years rally, a new deal with the WRC promoter was signed to keep a championship round in the snow and ice of Sweden for three more years. CEO Glenn Olsson comments that it is all down to the effort from the organization that pulls through even at the hardest times. That means if Canada or Japan wants a round of the WRC, it is most likely at the expence of a different European round.