What’s your definition of having fun? Hanging around with mates? Partying? Driving fast cars? If, like me, you enjoy all of these things, then you need to experience Scandinavia’s wildest automotive event: Gatebil.
Long-time Speedhunters readers will likely be familiar with Gatebil, but if you’re not, I’ll do my best to show you what this three-day-long power party is all about.
Before Gatebil’s main event at Rudskogen in Norway next month, the first major event of the season is a little closer to home for me. About two and a half hours from Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, is Mantorp Park.
After leaving work early on Thursday, I figured I would get the chance to catch attendees as they rolled in for the weekend ahead. But, by the time I arrived, many people had already setup their temporary homes for the next few days and the festivities had started.
This was my second time attending Gatebil Mantorp, and the first time covering one of the main events. As a hobby photographer and a novice car enthusiast back in 2019, the event opened my eyes to a whole new world of automotive-related madness.
This time around, there was so much to take in and I didn’t really know where to begin or what to expect. So I did what anyone would do – start at the camping site. Although, I had to do a second round on Friday when the party was in full swing.
A plethora of Volvos at Gatebil? You bet, this wouldn’t be a Swedish event without them. Some owners brought along some pretty serious builds, while others were simply out to enjoy their steel bricks on the track. This is one of the great things about Gatebil events – anything goes.
It all seemed a little subdued on Thursday night, and at this point I did wonder how big the event would be compared to the last Gatebil Mantorp event in 2019, when it was absolutely packed. Well, you know what they say about the quiet before the storm? That was definitely true of this event.
At 10:00am sharp the following the morning, cars were lined up to hit the Mantorp circuit for the first sessions of the event. After stepping out of my car rather tired (I spent the night at a friend’s place nearby), I was immediately hit with the smell of burning ethanol and rubber, and the screams from barely-silenced exhausts. My energy levels went from 10 to 100 in an instant. It seems like the perfect wake-up call does exist!
As I mentioned, anything goes here, and walking through the paddock you see everything from budget bangers to high-end builds. It doesn’t matter what you bring – as long as you can drive it, you’re welcome. As Paddy wrote way back in 2015, Gatebil is all about having fun.
In the paddock, drivers are more than happy to talk about their builds and share their handiwork. For me, this is where the true Gatebil spirit shines.
Of course, there is no Gatebil without spectators. They make the event come to life, and many like to party hard.
Others just want to soak up the sun while the echoes of every engine imaginable scream in the distance. Whichever approach you prefer, I’m very convinced that you need a couple of days to recover. It’s been a couple of weeks for me, and I feel like my body is only just getting back to normal.
Track-side, Mantorp Park’s pit lane was constantly filled with cars ready to hit the track. Boxy Swedish beauties, Bavarian steel and Japanese rockets are all expected at Gatebil, but so are the surprises. I’ll be showing you some of those very soon.
Drifting is arguably the main focus of these events, and with so many drivers hitting the track at the same time, the was no rest from the action. It actually came to a point where the organizers had to pause the session due to too many cars. Let’s just say it was pretty exciting while it lasted.
One of the best places to catch the action at Mantorp Park is at the start/finish line. Here, you have the chance to stick your head out (not too far) and witness drift cars coming towards you at maximum attack. If you like inhaling tire smoke and being pelted by hot rubber, I can highly recommend this spot.
With that in mind, safety vehicles were stationed at almost every corner. I feel like these guys and gals don’t get the recognition they deserve, so hats off to the Mantorp Park safety crew.
This is one of those events where you don’t need to walk far before you come across another amazing car. But in ‘The Show Garden’ – Gatebil’s official car show – they were everywhere. I’ve got a few spotlights coming up, so look out for those.
Friday evening’s main on-track event was the ‘Battle Of The North’, where Swedish and Norwegian drivers battled it out sideways on the circuit’s second to last corner.
Of course, with a friendly rivalry like this, you can bet there’s going to be some contact. Whenever Sweden got a point, or two cars rubbed panels, the crowd went nuts.
After a tight battle, Sweden took home the crown and the winners were flown back to base in a Black Hawk helicopter. It was a pretty cool end to the day.
Saturday is definitely the busiest and the most action-packed day of the event. Sleep is often overlooked at Gatebil, especially if you’re there for the whole event. I barely slept on Friday night, so was in a zombie state the first couple of hours on Saturday.
By contrast, the campsite was very much alive and people had already started partying. Or more likely, they just hadn’t stopped from Friday. It’s amazing to see how dedicated some Gatebil attendees are to having fun.
Saturday had plenty of action – drifting, car limbo, a stunt show, grip sessions and time attack.
I spotted this hot rod-looking thing ripping it up on track, so made a point of checking it out back in the paddock. It’s something pretty special, so expect a closer look in near future.
Breisladden – the power skid competition – is one of Saturday’s main attractions. Crowds gather at two spots – the first turn, which is a really fast left-hander that turns into a long right hander, commonly known as the Pariskurvan or The Paris Turn, or the next corner, where the most smoke is generated and rev limiters are truly bashed.
Of all the on-track events at Gatebil Mantorp, this is the one where drivers push themselves the hardest, which often means a trip into the sand traps.
The short break after the Breisladden was one of the few times over the weekend I actually had to catch my breath and grab something decent to eat. A sweaty kebab energized me nicely for the next event on the schedule, the Gatebil Gymkhana.
The Gatebil crew created a small track on Mantorp Park’s long back straight where drivers had to navigate turns, slide under the Gatebil drift taxi, and finally stop inside a box for maximum points.
For some, this was the last spectacle before heading home after an action-packed two days. But, Gatebil doesn’t stop when the sun goes down – remembering that it doesn’t actually set until around 10:00pm at this time of year.
Once the dust settled and the gymkhana track was cleared, the real party began. I really wanted to join in on the madness, but Sunday was still to come.
Waking up the next morning I felt bruised and confused. I couldn’t really decide on what to do. Could I be bothered staying for the whole day? I thought it would probably feel empty given I had woken up later that expected, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I forced myself right back to Mantorp Park and, surprisingly, Sunday was amazing. You could sense the event was coming to an end though. The drifters were using up their last tires; the time attack crew were prepping for their final race against the clock; and the show car set were packing for the drive home. However, with a big police presence out on the road checking the legality of modifications, some of the latter ended up leaving their cars at the track.
I stayed until my legs couldn’t take it anymore. According to my health app on my iPhone, I walked a total 51.4 kilometers (40 miles) over the course of the event.
I’ll be traveling to Gatebil Rudskogen in Norway in two week’s time, and I’ve heard that the facility is bigger in every way with more elevation. Why would I put my body through another three long days of physical pain? Two words: Because Gatebil!
Until then though, look out for some more coverage from Mantorp Park.