Umeå is ready for its third World Rally Championship

Rally Magazine

The city of birches is once again prepared to welcome the rally world to organize its third consecutive World Rally Championship on February 15-18, 2024. Umeå has undoubtedly established itself as an ideal location for motorsport fans from all corners of the world.

“Welcoming the WRC rally to Umeå for the third time fills us with pride and joy. It is not only an opportunity to showcase our fantastic city internationally but also a chance to create memories for both residents and visitors,” says Hans Lindberg, municipal councilor (Social Democrats).

Sunny Winter Landscape

In an almost unlikely winter landscape framing Umeå and its surrounding municipalities, one of the WRC series’ events has become a powerful symbol over Västerbotten and its beautiful nature. Umeå has provided a perfect platform for the rally. The snow-covered forests and icy roads surrounding Umeå have offered challenging conditions for drivers and a unique experience for rally fans.

Standing in the forest with snow up to the knees may be commonplace for Northerners but a fascination for other nationalities where snow is rare.

The entire foundation for moving the rally was simple and obvious in theory and spelled snow. Something that gradually diminished with milder winters in Värmland, where the Swedish Rally, with its traditions and rich history, finally succumbed to the forces of weather.

In Umeå, it has been a crucial factor that has also been abundant in both 2021 and 2022. It has become the winter rally it was intended to be, and it has only improved with both events bathed in sunshine. Expectations are therefore high for the third year.

Umeå Municipality has also invested in modern facilities and infrastructure to ensure the rally can be carried out smoothly and safely. With experience from previous years, the organizers have fine-tuned logistics and prepared to welcome the world’s best rally drivers.

The Red Barn Arena – the Epicenter of Rally Sweden

What does Umeå gain from this?

However, the question arises: what effect has the WRC rally had on Umeå as a city? The inaugural year was marked by a shaky and uncertain pandemic situation, which naturally affected the possibilities for rally enthusiasts to book their trips to Northern Sweden.

But it hardly affected the residents of Umeå, who almost had an aha-experience of what a world event had “fallen” into their city.

Already last year, the effect was different. A clear arena strategy with The Red Barn Arena as an almost unique “hub” with its central location filled the event to the maximum.

The rally days, ending each day inside the arena area, attracted approximately 20,000 spectators per evening.

Measurements from Umeå Municipality show that the WRC rally and Umeå were mentioned in no less than 65(!) countries with a reach of over 285 million readers.

These media figures, accompanied by WRC rally’s social media accounts with their over three million followers, are, of course, incredible exposure that naturally comes with the “purchase” of the event.

“Events like the WRC rally serve as a catalyst for our international marketing and strengthen our brand. It gives us a platform to market Umeå and Västerbotten as the beautiful destination it is,” says Hans Lindberg.

The number of sold hotel rooms in Umeå also increased significantly during the 2023 event and was almost sold out during the WRC week.

An investment

So when the world’s best rally drivers land in Umeå, the costs increase, but the revenues also become significant for businesses as rally fans from around the world follow suit.

“The WRC rally is undoubtedly an economic injection for our city. Hotels, restaurants, and local businesses benefit from the rally and, of course, stimulate our local economy,” says Lindberg.

And the environment?

All major events have a climate and environmental impact. Since 2019, Rally Sweden has been working strategically and purposefully with a vision of zero emissions under the name Rally Towards Zero, consisting of three goals: zero fossil emissions, zero accidents, and no waste left behind.

Hans Lindberg, kommunalråd

“We have worked hard to ensure that this rally is as environmentally friendly as possible. From sustainable transport to recycling programs, we strive to minimize our impact and leave a positive footprint for future generations. We encourage residents to participate, support the rally, and at the same time be aware of how we can enjoy these exciting days with as little impact on our surroundings as possible,” concludes Lindberg.