Rally Sweden is definitely one of my favourite rallies in the championship. When I retired from the sport at the end of 2007, this was one of the events I knew I would miss. So, being back out there again this week is pretty special for me.
I've always had good memories of Sweden, and not just because it was the place where I took my first WRC win in 2000. Come to think of it, that was also my first WRC podium. I've done this rally a lot of times before - I have only done 1,000 Lakes (Rally Finland) more times than Sweden. When I was a private driver, this was always one of the events I did because it was close to my home. I have good memories of it - and a few wins!
Marcus Gronholm en route to winning the 2000 Rally Sweden for Peugeot © LAT
The Swedish Rally isn't always so fantastic, though. It's a winter rally, but when the winter doesn't come it's just not the same. This year it looks like it will be okay - the only problem could be that the temperatures have been too cold for too long.
The ideal thing is for the temperature to rise a little bit some times to let some of the snow melt, then more freezing to make this into a really hard ice base. Okay, we always want a lot of snow to make the snowbanks good enough and strong enough to lean on, but it's ice and not snow that we want on the road.
When you have good ice on the road, the grip is just fantastic from the studded tyres. It's amazing and a fantastic feeling to be pushing at such speeds, then knowing that when you brake the studs will dig in, the speed will go and you can attack the corner. But, when you start to get some gravel coming, the feeling is not the same. The gravel can start to rip the studs out of the tyres and that's when it's tough. When you come to brake again, you can feel the car is not slowing the same, it can be quite dangerous. You need studs to bite and you need ice for them to bite into.
One of the things I'm really pleased about this year is that the Sagen stage is back again. I have a restaurant which I named after this stage - that's how much I like it. I like the way this stage flows, but mostly, the best thing about it, is that the conditions are usually much better because this stage is quite far north. In the past, we have had some rallies where the road has not been so nice in the south, then we come to Sagen and it's really good.
And then there's the hairpin at the end of the stage, it's a great way to end a great stage. There are usually quite a lot of people spectating there - and plenty of photographers and camera crews - so you tend to go quite aggressive and attack it more sideways than you might normally!