Is a driver's license a requirement for rally drivers? And how does a rally driver warm up, really? We have the answers to ten questions you haven't dared to ask about the World Rally Championship in Umeå.

”Rally for dummies”; Ten questions you haven't dared to ask about the World Rally Championship in Umeå.


Rallyförare vid Väven I Umeå

Photo: Philip Avesand

Few are unaware that there will be a rally in and around Umeå on the third weekend of February. But how does it actually work? Visit Umeå has asked the questions that no one has dared to, but everyone should – all to help us understand Rally Sweden 2024. Sandra Nyström, project coordinator at Rally Sweden, has the answers:


1) Is Rally Sweden really as "big" as many claim?

–This is Sweden's largest annually recurring event. Approximately 120 million people will follow the competitions on TV, and Umeå is expected to host around 30,000 visitors from all parts of the world, benefiting the tourism industry. This IS big.


2) Is a driver's license really necessary to participate in rallying?

–This type of competition is almost the only motorsport that actually requires you to have a driver's license. All forms of motorsport held in arenas – such as Formula 1, rallycross, and so on – do not have a driver's license requirement. Sandra Nyström explains:

–A rally race takes place on regular roads on so-called special stages. Between these competition stages, the driver must transport themselves and the car to the start of the next special stage – these are called transport stages. This is done on regular, public roads where traffic rules must be followed, hence the requirement for a driver's license. It's usually an appreciated sight in traffic when you find yourself next to a rally car at a traffic light. But there have also been cases where people thought they were in the middle of a rally race.


3) Are there airbags in rally cars?

No, there are no airbags in rally cars. Sandra Nyström argues that airbags would deploy before the cars even warmed up.

–They can't withstand all the impacts a rally car is subjected to. With jumps that can measure up to 40 meters and front and rear bumpers regularly diving into snowdrifts, airbags would deploy at the slightest impact. Moreover, there is no purpose for an airbag for the driver and navigator. They are so tightly secured with seat belts and head restraints that they should barely be able to move in the event of a collision, she says.

Bonus information: The roll cage that revolutionized safety in motorsport was invented in Umeå in 1955.


Vinter rally


4) Do drivers warm up before getting into the car, or do they rely solely on seat warmers?

–Warming up is necessary. It's crucial to be alert when driving at the speeds reached during a rally. The warming-up routine varies widely among individuals, but I know that many drivers start their morning with a run to get their bodies in gear. There are no seat warmers in rally cars; however, the drivers have heating elements in their shoes, reveals Sandra.


5) What sets a rally car apart from a regular car?

–Everything. The only thing untouched might be the door handle. A rally car is extensively modified and specially built to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Comfort is not a priority; it's more of a compromise. The focus is on making the cars go fast, and they certainly do. On one of last year's stages, the drivers averaged a speed of 141 kilometers per hour, with top speeds reaching up to 190 km/h, says Sandra Nyström.

Bonus information: The developments seen in passenger cars are also evident in this year's Rally Sweden, where all cars are hybrid vehicles.


6) What happens if a rally car gets a flat tire? Are there service teams on-site after the stages?

–If a car gets a flat tire, the driver has two options: either finish the stage with the flat tire or change the tire themselves. A rally car can only be serviced and repaired by team personnel in a designated area at Nolia. If something happens during the stages, the driver and co-driver must solve the problem on their own, without assistance from anyone else, using only spare parts or tools they have in the car. The only time they can seek help is if they go off the road, in which case they can enlist the help of spectators to get back on the road. It's usually not difficult for them to find assistance; I know many spectators who bring ropes and shovels into the woods, ready to help if needed, she says.


Rally specialsträcka i soljus

Photo: Philip Avesand


7) If I have to choose only one special stage to watch as a spectator, which one should I choose and why?

–The first special stage on Friday; the Brattby stage. It's fast without being the fastest, with some spectacular turns and a road change in Västanbäck where there was a huge crowd last year. Rally at its best!


8) If I don't want to stand in the woods with thermal underwear and a down jacket but still want to experience the rally and see some fast cars, what should I do as a spectator?

–Red Barn Arena. It's the epicenter of the WRC rally – this is where it happens. A pleasant walk or a short bus ride from Umeå city center. At the I20 area, you'll find WRC's newest and hottest arena. Spectacular jumps and straight stretches where cars will reach maximum speed, food courts, VIP areas, and live performances. This is the place to experience WRC rally, party, and family fun. And after the competitions, just stroll into the city center and its restaurants.

–The opening and award ceremony take place at Red Barn Arena, and stages will be held here every competition day. Additionally, we have expanded the area, accommodating as many as 30,000 people here, says Sandra Nyström, continuing;

–The second option is one of the football halls at Nolia and our Support Arena/Service Park. Here, spectators curious about the rally – without necessarily wanting to stand and stare into an exhaust pipe all the time – will get a different kind of experience. We will show the competitions on big screens, offer food and drinks in an environment that is more explanatory and inviting for rally beginners. Moreover, all team service facilities are here, providing ample opportunities to get close to the teams when the cars come in between stages for service and repairs. I think it can be a great opportunity for those who are not so familiar with the rally to learn more.


9) Is a snowmobile necessary to get from one stage to another?

Absolutely not. In addition to buses, there are parking spaces for cars at each stage. A good tip is to carpool as it can get crowded on some stages. All relevant practical information can be found on or Visit Umeå.


10) What does the winner of Rally Sweden receive?

A trophy, a wreath, and of course, a great deal of honor.

Bonus information: Here you can find all previous winners of Rally Sweden.


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