The opening day of the Rally Sweden has seen a fierce battle over the icy stages, with Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm emerging in a slender lead from the Subaru of Petter Solberg. Peugeot Markko Martin ends the leg in sixth place, while a third 307 WRC driven by up-and-coming Swede Daniel Carlsson is 13th overall after losing time with suspension damage.
The first leg of Rally Sweden contained a 52-kilometre loop of three stages which was repeated in the afternoon, making a total competitive distance of 104.6 kilometres. The day ended with a two-kilometre spectator superspecial in the town of Hagfors, home to the central service park for all three days of the rally.
Every crew ran on skinny studded tyres, with a choice of short or long studs. The Peugeot drivers elected to run on short studs, which were less efficient on the icy first stage but came into their own on the following two stages, run an hour and a half later. Gronholm and Martin made the same tyre choice for the second loop, where the stages contained more loose gravel following the first passage in the morning.
Marcus Gronholm: "I'm very pleased to be in the lead, but I am not a hundred percent happy with some of the settings on my car: there are still some areas in which we can improve. Today was quite difficult as the stages in the afternoon were not in very good condition, so it became a question of looking after the tyres to make sure that all the studs stayed in. I am feeling quite confident for tomorrow, but I am sure that everybody is hoping for a bit more snow to make this a proper winter rally!"
Markko Martin: "A high-speed spin on the first stage cost me more than 10 seconds. I changed the differential settings after the first loop of stages, and the car became easier to handle and predict. I know now the right direction in which we should go in order to improve our performance."
Daniel Carlsson: "I had a very good feeling at the start of the rally, despite conditions that were quite different from those we had on the recce. On the third stage I hit a rock that had been thrown onto the road by the cars in front of me. That impact broke the left-front suspension and I also had a puncture. I was able to attack again on the second loop of stages, but I was also careful to slow down and look after my tyres."
Corrado Provera: "The rally has started off at an incredible pace with just tiny gaps between the leaders for most of the first leg. Marcus has not made a single mistake, and neither has Petter Solberg who is just behind him in second. Only two-tenths of a second separate them after 106 kilometres of action! Marcus will start leg two with an excellent road position by virtue of his overnight lead. Markko had a spin on the first stage which upset his rhythm. But we have not had any mechanical problems and we are all looking forward to an excellent overall performance from the Peugeots."