I wrote this post about a week and a half ago, but obviously forgot to post it. But as they say, better late than never. I didn’t bother changing any of the text though.
The headline sums up my weekend pretty well. Already on Thursday we packed the car and headed south, staying over with friends till Friday and then off to Finnskogen to watch the Swedish World Rally Championship round. As a huge rally fan I just have to be there when there’s a WRC round so close. Close meaning not exactly in this part of the country, but closer than all the other WRC rounds. Eight hours in a car isn’t that bad compared to travelling to Mexico or France, right?
Friday, they drove two special stages in Norway, which we of course couldn’t miss.
So we found a nice spot by a junction at Finnskogen and watched the WRC1 class, before heading to Kirkenær where we watched all classes. We walked a bit back and forth, watching the teams change tires for the next round, and finally settling for a place by the smallest jump. When the smoke from a nearby campfire got in the way for my camera lens (the photos turned out all blurry and weird) we moved closer to the big jump, something we should’ve done earlier if it hadn’t been so crowded.
After the WRC classes, they drove a WRC Historic class for older cars at some stages. So at Kirkenær we stayed and watched every single car, just to see all the old veteran rally cars go over the jump.
It was very nostalgic, and we got a glimpse of how it was to watch a rally thirty-or-so years ago. Completely different from today’s modern cars with roaring engines driving at an insane speed, but amusing nonetheless.
The following night was spent in a tiny tent in the middle of Sweden’s endless forests. We camped just about 50 metres from next day’s first special stage, so that we didn’t need to get up at an ungodly hour to get there in time. Brilliant, huh?
Not so much, thanks to the very loud Fins that decided to camp not far away from us and then wake us up with shouting and fireworks that sounded like shotguns every hour or so.
But when you camp by a rally stage, you get the best alarm clock in the world; three or more safety cars with sirens howling, thundering past right outside your sleeping bag! The sleepless night was soon forgotten when we hurried towards the other side of the jump to get a good place in time.
Do you see the red and white safety ribbon on the right? That’s how close we were to the rally stage!
After the first stage, we went to the service in Hagfors to get a close-up of the cars (and drivers), and then we went to see a sprint stage on an arena in town.
The sun peeked out, and we had a lovely time just relaxing and watching the rally. It was very exciting though, as my favourite Andreas Mikkelsen was leading the rally only by seconds. I found out that I hated having to be there in the middle of it all, just waiting for the result with all fingers crossed. It was just too intense.
So result wise, I’d prefer to watch a summary on the telly when it was all over and we knew who’d won. But on the other hand, few things makes me more happy than standing along a remote road, waiting for my heroes to drive past in an excruciating speed.
You hear something that sounds like a roar or thunder in a distance, it comes closer and closer through the thick forest, then it’s just behind the bend and the safety guard blows his whistle. You can feel the excitement of the crowd. Then suddenly, a roaring monster appears and flies by, too fast to even read the name in the side window. In a blink of an eye it’s gone – as sudden as it appeared, leaving a heavy smell of exhaust in the air.
That night we decided to rent a room in a nearby motel instead of spending another night outside. That was the plan, but after a sleepless night and a cold, busy day, a proper bed sounded like heaven.
On Sunday we watched one stage, visited the service area once more, and then headed south to Karlstad to see the finish ceremony.
On our way there, we got the sad news that Andreas Mikkelsen, who had been leading the rally almost the whole weekend, had hit a snow bank and lost the lead to team mate Sebestién Ogier and came in third after Thierry Neuville. Very sad indeed, since Mikkelsen has been my favourite since the beginning of his career, and this would’ve been his first WRC win.
But he’s now third in the overall standings, so anything can happen. Fingers crossed!
That was a short summary of our fantastic, exhaust filled weekend. If you enjoy fast cars and motorsport, make sure you’ll experience at least one rally in your life!
It’s so much better than watching it on the telly or online, even though you just get a short glimpse of each car. It’s the atmosphere and the excitement of being there.