How a spiked jack helped a Sweden win

In his first column with DirtFish, Elliott Edmondson explains the demands of co-driving Oliver Solberg in the snow


Rally Sweden is a big deal for Oliver, as you can imagine. There’s an expectation of him on every event, but last week was even more intense on his home rally. To go back-to-back with wins in Sweden was very, very special.

Oliver and I have enjoyed incredible success in the last few years – jumping in a lake after finishing sixth overall in Finland last year is one that comes immediately to mind – but that feeling on Sunday was incredible. It was amazing.

Winning doesn’t come easily at any level, certainly not at world championship level. It takes a lot of hard work, commitment and focus from everybody involved and this result is testament to the effort, not just from Oliver and I, but from everyone at Škoda Motorsport, Toksport and, of course, our sponsors.

I get asked a lot about competing in the kind of extreme conditions we saw in Sweden last week, where temperatures dropped to around minus 30 and the snow was just incredible. Much of what we do is the same, regardless of the conditions, but there’s are a few things that are unique to co-driving on a winter rally.


Solberg and Edmondson took the WRC2 lead on Thursday night's opening test, and never looked back

It all starts with the recce, which is always a little bit more complicated. Even though we might be using the same stages, the roads are full of snow and when they’re ploughed that creates a different profile to the corners. We generally start with last year’s notes as a base and then make some changes.

Equally, the stages around Umeå are quite quick with lots of fast, flowing sections and not so many junctions – that makes the life of a co-driver slightly easier: less corners means less notes and less notes means less to read.

When you have conditions like we had last week, with so much snow falling so quickly, the roads have to be ploughed before we start. That’s what happened for Saturday and Sunday on last week’s event. So, again, the profile of the corners can change. You can come to a turn you’ve noted as flat-out – because it was flat-out on the recce – but it’s maybe just that little bit tighter when you come through it on the rally. It’s something you always have to be aware of as a driver and a co-driver.

There are a few other small things that we do differently for Rally Sweden. Keeping warm is obviously really important, so I’m actually allowed to wear proper winter boots instead of race boots. It’s part of the regulations, and it also helps with traction if we end up stuck in a snowbank and I have to get out and push!

Naturally we carry a shovel around in case we get stuck, and we also take a rope with us which we tie directly onto the roll cage before the start. That way, if we had gone off, we could just pop the boot open, chuck the rope to the spectators and ask them to give us a pull. But, of course, the goal is to not get stuck in the snowbanks in the first place.

Even the jack is winter-spec; it has little studs on the bottom which stop it sliding around on the ice when we’re trying to jack-up the car. It’s all these little things that you take for granted when you’ve got a Tarmac or gravel surface, but they become a lot more difficult when you’re on snow.

The conditions on Rally Sweden were pretty mad, especially on Friday. Oliver did a great job in that heavy snow. It’s in those occasions, when the visibility is so low, that the drivers have to rely a lot more on the pacenotes. But it’s really difficult for the co-driver to read the road as well. I can understand where we are in the stages from the feeling from the car, but it’s also quite useful to be actually see where were going from time to time!

Oliver Solberg

Big crowds braved the freezing conditions to cheer Solberg and Edmondson on to back-to-back Sweden wins in the Škoda

Getting through Friday was tough, but then to realize that we were running third overall in the rally was pretty surreal. When I told Oliver, he definitely didn’t understand what I meant at first… he assumed we were third in WRC2, not in the actual rally! It was a nice surprise, but at the same time we could understand how the surface and the grip had evolved on the road to help us.

The conditions got better on Saturday and Sunday, and for us it was just about managing our lead in WRC2. Fortunately, we’d been in that position before, and the key is not to think too much about the times and stay focused. Oliver drove at a comfortable pace, but it certainly wasn’t slow – he kept the tempo up. If you back off too much, mistakes can creep in.

That works for me as well, when we keep that rhythm everything works and it keeps your head in the game.

We had some tough competition over the weekend, the Toyotas were fast. I think Sami Pajari was close to our pace, and we were pushed at times by other guys like Georg Linnamäe and Roope Korhonen. But to cross the finish line and get the win was overwhelmingly pleasing.


Solberg and Edmondson celebrate another hard-fought WRC2 victory with the team

Everybody in the team did a great job, right from the pre-event test all the way through to the end of the rally. We put so much preparation into an event like this and when it all comes off and you take a win like this – and fifth overall – it’s incredibly satisfying.

It’s a few weeks before our next event, but that time just flies by. There’s always a lot of work on notes, videos, and all the usual preparation I have to do for the next recce. And before we get there, there’s some testing planned as well.

Oliver and I are in constant contact, always talking about what went well on the last rally and how we can improve things for the next event. We’re both totally focused on delivering the best possible performance in every aspect of what we do. We’re competing at an elite level and I love the demands that brings. You have to be at your best. Everywhere.