Grondal leads PWRC as Flodin fights back
Today's battle in the Production Car World Rally Championship was a true tale of two halves, with Anders Grondal taking the morning and Patrik Flodin ruling the afternoon.
It's Grondal's Subaru which holds the PWRC lead overnight, but the similar car of his rival Flodin is fast recovering from an unplanned trip into a snowbank on the first stage proper this morning.
Grondal won the Karlstad superspecial on Thursday night and continued his stage-winning form through the morning, taking time out of the rest of the field on all four forest stages. At lunchtime service back in Hagfors, Grondal was relaxed.
"It's been an okay morning, no big problem," he said. "We had a spin in the second stage, but nothing too much. I caught a car in that stage, which also cost me some time."
Flodin's second-stage contretemps had dropped him to fifth in the standings. Understandably, last year's Swedish PWRC winner was not in the best of moods when he stopped at the end of the Vargasen test.
"It was near the start of the stage," he said. "I went off the road. I have to thank the spectators for getting me back on the road."
Flodin then made time on the rest of the field, but couldn't make any impact on Grondal's lead. Flodin made the most of a transmission fault on Martin Semerad's Mitsubishi just before lunch to take second, but his mood hadn't improved much. "I have to push this afternoon," he said, his face drawn and determined.
And push he did. The Swede was unbeaten on the three re-run stages as he slashed into Grondal's advantage, cutting it to 22 seconds by the close of play. The reversal of fortunes was incredible.
As Flodin came firmly onto the front foot, Grondal was forced back. The Norwegian just couldn't get comfortable in the same Subaru he'd used to dominate the morning stages.
"We have some problems," was all he ventured at the end of SS5, nervously eyeing a scoreboard which revealed the loss of 17 seconds to his rival.
Flodin was pretty chuffed with his efforts: "I need more, though," he said, hopping from one foot to another to try and keep warm as he waited to go into service tonight. "I need more to put some real pressure to him."
Russian driver Dmitry Tagirov remains on course to make it two Flodin Imprezas on the PWRC podium - he is using the car Flodin drove to victory here 12 months ago. Tagirov admitted the day had been a tough, but an enjoyable one.
Semerad was third but dropped a place in the final stage after failing to secure the lamp pod on the bonnet of his Mitsubishi, which smashed his car's windscreen and forced the Czech to step and close it shut.
Valeriy Gorban is fifth at the end of the day, with fellow Ukrainian Mitsubishi driver Yuriy Protasov just over a minute down in sixth.