There were many things about this year’s Rally Sweden that were impressive… Jari-Matti’s resurgence, TMG’s first victory in their return to the WRC, the huge crowds at Colin’s Crest… the list goes on an on. What captured my attention and impressed me the most, however, was how the organizers of Rally Sweden handled the power stage on Sunday. From the past, we have seen that this organizational team knows how to put on a show. However, on Sunday, they absolutely outdid themselves.
This is what we and the WRC have been waiting for since the power stage was introduced back in 2011. The idea for a “grand finale” on live TV seemed like a good one, but until now, most power stages have been quite underwhelming. Yes, the power stage does guarantee those of us sitting at home at least one live stage of WRC action. However, for the most part, the power stages have had the rally finishing on a makeshift podium set up in a field next to the flying finish of the final stage. It always felt quite anticlimactic. After all, the rally isn’t really over until the teams check into the final time control back at the service park, so it isn’t even the true finish of the event.
This year, Rally Sweden addressed all of these issues and absolutely knocked it out of the park with the Torsby power stage. This stage rectified all of the wrongs that we’ve seen in past power stages. First of all, the stage was fantastic from both a rallying and a spectating perspective. It was a proper stage with fast flowing roads, jumps, and technical sections. In addition to that however, it featured natural arenas where huge numbers of people could come out and watch the cars on a proper stage from a safe location. This is fantastic, but it has been achieved before by other rallies. The one that comes to the forefront of my mind is the Deusaigues stage on Rally Catalunya. This one finishes with a doughnut around a traffic circle in front of a huge sloping hillside filled with fans.
However, the fact that the Torsby stage finished at the entrance to the service park is what made it stand apart. I know that logistical challenges don’t always make this possible, but the other WRC events should take notice of what Rally Sweden did. This is how to finish a rally. The stage created a “made for TV moment” with Jari-Matti driving through a cloud of fog onto the podium just seconds after he finished the final stage of the rally. This is a finish worthy of a world championship event. This is the magic that the WRC had been searching for since introducing the power stage in 2011. I’ve given the WRC plenty of flack for how they have (or haven’t) promoted their product in the past. However, after witnessing the spectacle on Sunday, the WRC and Rally Sweden deserve a tip of the cap for a job very well done.