Rallying’s back in Sweden and one of Sweden’s biggest stars is back in rallying. And it’s all happening on Sunday afternoon. And it’s for real, with engines and no reset buttons.
Rally Sweden Lockdown was revealed on Thursday as an invitational event running entirely on a short gravel stage on roads around Torsby made famous by the nation’s World Rally Championship qualifier.
The returning star? That’s two-time Junior World Rally Champion P-G Andersson. He will be joined by a further five drivers, including Oliver Solberg, Mattias Ekström, Pontus Tidemand, Emil Bergqvist and Jonna Eson Brådhe.
The action from the non-spectator event will be screened live on Swedish national channel SVT1 from 1545 CET Sunday. WRC+ will run a highlights show on Monday evening.
Following a shakedown, the six drivers will take qualifying runs before a pair of semi-finals, a ‘b’ final and the ‘a’ final to decide the winner.
Monster Energy driver Oliver Solberg, who will be co-driven aboard the family Volkswagen Polo R5 by his mum Pernilla, said: “It’s so fantastic to be back. We have been really busy with the Solberg World Cup and a lot of gaming and sim racing – and that’s been really cool – but to actually pull on the overalls, get in the car, shut the door and push the starter button is something I have missed so much!
“I have to say a very big congratulations to the organizers of the event. What they have been able to do is amazing. Obviously, we are all sorry not to have some spectators coming, but while we are still having this coronavirus around, we have to be really careful and sensible. The good thing is that the fans get the chance to watch on SVT, who I know will make a fantastic television show out of it.
“For me the good thing is to drive again. It will be strange to be in the rally car in these places, but not to need the woolly hat and the coat. It will be a lot of fun – but now I have to remember to myself [sic] that if I am going wide and hitting something then I can’t push the button to start again!”
Pernilla Solberg is, of course, no stranger to rallying success in Sweden. Once a leading P-WRC driver herself, Pernilla switched to the co-driver’s seat and guided Petter to victory on four of the last five Rally Sweden Historics they started.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “Of course, I have done some testing with Oliver, but this will be the first time I get to compete with him. Like Oliver said, the first thing is to thank everybody involved with this event – to make something like this in this difficult time is very impressive.
“But it will be just nice to hear some engines running again. It’s been a very long time since Rally México in March. Rallying is really at the centre of our lives and it always has been, with mine and Petter’s parents competing before we did. I don’t remember a time without competition for as long as this before. I can’t wait to get started!”
Rally Sweden Lockdown director Glenn Olsson said he looked forward to a return to competition.
“COVID-19 has silenced rallying for the last couple of months,” he said, “but now it’s time for the engines to roar again. Some of Sweden’s biggest motorsport names, including four world champions, will compete on roads made famous by our WRC round.
“The knockout format guarantees drivers must battle for every tenth of a second and even the slightest mistake could prove costly. It promises to be real edge-of-seat watching for fans.”