Kalle Rovanpera opens the door of his Toyota Yaris WRC, thinks about getting out, then pulls it shut. It's February, it's minus 28C and he's within the Arctic Circle.
Rovanpera is getting ready for the World Rally Championship's latest addition, this week's Arctic Rally Finland, and rarely has a new round of the series engendered so much enthusiasm, or attracted so many pullovers. But we should be clear here: the Rovaniemi-based event is a single-season stand-in for Rally Sweden, lost to the pandemic even before 2020 became 2021.
The plan is for the WRC's winter qualifier to move west back into Sweden (and/or Norway, as has been its cross-border nature in recent years) from next season. But the Swedes will be painfully aware that the bar is about to be raised. It's easy to bash their Torsby-based event for the lack of snow and ice (or even a hard frost this time last year), but it's also worth noting - and not without significant irony - the foot-high snowbanks in Swedish Varmland this week. Rarely has the weather been a more fickle beast than now.