Rally Sweden from 1950 and on
1950 held the first Sweden rally and was called the Midnight Sun, the rally was organised during summer for the first decade. The first winner was a true amateur, Pehr Fredrik Cederbaum, who entered his own BMW 327/328. That period of time the manufacturers were not interested in rallying.
The first years the rally had a number of different starting places as, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Falsterbo and Sundsvall to the assembly place. The rally then restarted in Karlskoga and from that time the cars were following the same route to the finish in Kiruna, far up north. The second year the cars were driving 2700 kilometers and there was not much time to rest. No priority for safety those days. Following the map was most important – the only information the crews had was the names of the places to pass – but not how to go there.
The rally kept on as a summer rally until 1965 and at that time the rally was moved to the coldest part of the year, in February. This was the very start of the winter rally Rally Sweden. No foreign driver would yet win the rally and the first winner of the winter edition was Tom Trana and Gunnar Thermaenius in a Volvo PV 544. Next step to a modern rally was taken in 1967 – from that on the rally each year had start and finish in the same town – in Karlstad.
During the eighties the rally sports grew more and more professional. The rally cars carried the sponsors names, the special stages were shorter, but still the rally held 2000 kilometers overall. The rally kept on day and night with minimal rests and still there was no World Rally Championship. In 1979 the first World Rally Champion was crowned and that was Swede Björn Waldegård. But Björn was not the winner of Rally Sweden that year. Stig Blomqvist and Björn Cederberg were the winners in a Saab 99 Turbo.
A new era started in 1981. The first foreign driver, Finn Hannu Mikkola, took the first victory in a four wheel drive car. That was quite a revolution in the rally world and from that on, no more two wheel driven car was ever competitive in WRC. Stig Blomqvist took his seventh victory in the rally in 1984. And the car was of course an Audi Quattro.
Next year Peugeot entered the scene and their 205 Turbo 16 was the reigning car for a couple of seasons. But the safety was not that good in the very fast group B cars and after some disastrous accidents the next class Group A was introduced in 1987. The year that a Japanese car manufacturer won a rally in the championship for the first time. The car was Mazda and the first rally was in Sweden. But there were lots of more successes to come.
In 1990 the rally was cancelled, but not completely. All teams had arrived to Karlstad and the organizer had to take the decision: No rally because of the lack of winter and too soft roads. There was a TV-sprint instead of a Championship rally and that affected the status of rally for a numbers of years in the future. The rally had to move some stages north into Dalecarlia and with a popular Super Special Stage at Lugnet, the Ski stadium in Falun. Some years later the long liaison stages ended that trip Falun.
This decade grew into the Mitsubishi decade, starting in 1995 with a disputed win for Swede Kenneth Eriksson in a Mitsubishi Galant ahead of Tommi Mäkinen in an identical car. But Tommi got this revenge next year and kept winning the rally in style until 1999.
A new century saw new cars and new drivers. Peugeot returned to the sport very successfully and the first winner of the century was Finn Marcus Grönholm in a Peugeot 206 WRC.
In 2002 the rally turned into Uddeholm Swedish Rally with a new format. Start and finish in Karlstad, but the center of the rally was the service park in Hagfors at the Airport, and the popular Hagfors Sprint. All stages very close to each other and close to the spectators.
And still there has been no winner from outside Scandinavia. But in 2004 the Scandinavians could not defend their territory – the French Sébastien Loeb and his companion Daniel Elena were the first non-Scandinavian to win the rally in Sweden with their Citroën Xsara WRC. Next year was the time for the Norwegians to cheer. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills took their Subaru WRC to the victory in 2005. And in 2006 Stig Blomqvist entered his fortieth rally!
An impressive row of Ford victories were started in 2006 when the elegant Finn Marcus Grönholm took the lead in his Ford Escort WRC 06 and kept on winning even the next year in a similar car. Then the young Finn Jari-Matti Latvala entered the highest level of the podium in 2008 in a Focus. That was the same year as the rally moved their HQ to the ice hockey venue Löfbergs Lila Arena and the main Service Park just outside in the outskirts of Karlstad.
After a one year break the rally returned in 2010 as Rally Sweden and was a real success. Snow, ice and sun from blue skies during the rally enticed lots of spectators to the rally. Even this rally saw a Finn and a Ford in the top. The 2010 and 2011 winner was Miko Hirvonen.