Summary With snow conditions not seen for a number of years, the arctic conditions proved a challenge for leading competitors on the opening day of the Swedish Rally. Richard Burns and Colin McRae lost significant amounts of time, dropping both ...
With snow conditions not seen for a number of years, the arctic conditions proved a challenge for leading competitors on the opening day of the Swedish Rally. Richard Burns and Colin McRae lost significant amounts of time, dropping both drivers outside of the top 20 for much of the day after getting lodged in snowbanks on the morning stages. Despite being the quickest cars for most of the afternoon, they failed to make any impression on the trio of Sainz (Ford), Rovanpera (Peugeot) and Radstrom (Mitsubishi), and it is Sainz who holds the advantage for tomorrow, with a 13 second overnight lead. Subaru's junior drivers, Solberg and Martin had a torrid day of mishaps, but showed character to pull together competitive times as the opening leg drew to a close. Marcus Gronholm, the reigning champion, was the only major retirement of the day when his Peugeot 206WRC succumbed to engine failure.
SS1 0911hrs Bjalverud (20.74km)
With the weather clearing after overnight rain, stage conditions were perfect for the start of the event, with 2cm of fresh snow left on the road after the snow plough had cleared the stage. Air temperature hovered at around minus 10C. Freddy Loix was the only driver to suffer a major trip up on the opening test, spinning his Mitsubishi Carisma GT and dropping over a minute to the leaders. Burns, McRae and Gronholm all made early statement of intent by setting the three quickest times, and despite his relative lack of mileage in the Subaru, Martin posted fifth quickest time, despite slipping into a ditch and reporting poor visibility due to a misting screen and low sunlight. Fastest time: Gronholm (11.05.3)
SS2 0939hrs Lonnhojden (18.82km)
After setting the pace on SS1, Burns and Gronholm were the casualties on the morning's second stage. Gronholm reported rising engine temperatures and completed the stage slowly, dropping approximately 20 seconds in the process, while Burns spent 13 minutes digging his Impreza out of the snow, after braking too late into a corner and leaving the road. The car was lodged on a snowbank and required a mammoth effort from the crew to get back onto the stage. While chaos ensued for the event favourites, almost unnoticed Rovanpera claimed a fastest time and with it, he stole the lead from his Peugeot team-mate, Gronholm. Martin's consistent showing moved the young Estonian in the unregistered Subaru up to fourth place. Fastest time: Rovanpera (10.41.5)
SS3 1030hrs Bogen (12.78km)
Mounting engine temperatures forced Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm into retirement after completing the stage 1m 12.1s slower than the leading time. Next it was Colin McRae's turn for a mishap in a copycat of Burn's excursion off the stage that cost the Scot approximately 51/2 minutes as the crew battled the Ford Focus back onto the road. Meanwhile Burns, driving the stage in soaking wet and freezing overalls was clearly fired up and claimed his first fastest time of the rally. Rovanpera ceded his lead to Thomas Radstrom, drafted by the Mitsubishi team to use his local knowledge to good effect in the specialist conditions. Behind this pair, Sainz and Martin were still locked in their own battle for third place. Fastest time: Burns (7.31.7)
SS4 1310hrs Granberget (49.36km)
The longest stage of the day, and the Championship so far. With average speeds of up to 120kph and top speeds exceeding, 200kph, Markko Martin lost intercom contact with his co-driver, Michael Park after only a few kilometres, and had to drive by sight with only the benefit of hand signals to warn him of forthcoming hazards. 20km further into the stage, the young Estonian hit some unidentified debris on the road and damaged the wheel rim, suspension strut and brake lines on the right rear corner of his Subaru Impreza. The pair stopped to change the wheel and struggled to the end of the stage, losing almost six minutes in the process. Team-mate Petter Solberg was also in the wars, with poor balance afflicting the handling of his Impreza. Despite this, Solberg still managed to record a top ten time. Colin McRae set the fastest time on the stage and Richard Burns was second, but this had no impact on the overall lead as Radstrom marginally increased his overall advantage, and Sainz overcame Rovanpera to snatch second place. In the Team's Cup competition, Hamed Al Wahaibi was disappointed to get stuck about 20km into the stage behind the car in front who refused to move over, costing the Allstars driver valuable time after a strong morning performance. Fastest time: Colin McRae (24.55.6)
SS5 1544hrs Torntorp (20.38km)
After the excitement of the first four stages, SS5 ran largely to order with no incidents. McRae and Burns were once again the fastest men on the penultimate stage, both drivers fired up by their earlier mishaps. Carlos Sainz's third place 31/2 seconds behind Burns was sufficient to give the Spaniard a slender 1.5 second advantage at the top of the leaderboard ahead of Radstrom. Martin and Solberg concluded the test just outside of the top ten after a tricky series of stages for both young drivers. Fastest time: Colin McRae (10.30.0)
SS6 1628hrs Sågfallet (26.48km)
Drivers fitted lamp pods on the road section between SS5 and SS6 as the dusk fell over the last stage of the day. Seemingly inseparable, Pirelli-shod McRae and Burns were once again the fastest two cars through the last stage as the temperatures dropped to minus 15C and the stage conditions iced, making tyre choice a critical element of performance. Behind the two British drivers, the new Subaru duo of Martin and Solberg finished the day with a pair of strong times back inside the top ten, while at the head of the field, Radstrom and Rovanpera's assault on Sainz waned, giving the Ford driver a clear 13 second lead to take to tomorrow's start. Fastest Time: Colin McRae (13.22.3)
Richard Burns "I know our entry speed into the fateful corner on SS2 was too high. Unfortunately there weren't so many spectators to help us back onto the road. But we quite quickly put the disappointment behind us and have been busy trying a few different things on the final couple of stages today. What I am sure about is that the car is extremely competitive and Pirelli have done some wonderful work, the combination of which has seen us being really competitive -- so we'll just make sure to get everything possible out of this rally"
Petter Solberg "No heroics today! It was good to finish the day with a good strong stage -- we actually ran it on a puncture which I knew had happened on the road section, but we didn't have time to change it, so considering that, we will go well tomorrow I know, but I still intend to take it steady and build up our speed. I am sure this is the best plan"
Markko Martin "On the last stage I had a soft brake pedal, which is no so good on such a fast stage. But as the day has gone on, our problems have decreased and our performance improved. It was very disappointing to lose fourth place, but this afternoon has made up for that, and I can't wait to start tomorrow"
Hamed Al Wahaibi "I've had a really good day -- this new car is a great step forward and the new semi-auto box is a treasure. The only downside to the day was catching the car in front about 20kms in to SS4 -- he wouldn't let me through and cost us valuable time"
Freddy Dor "Well, it's my first experience of driving on snow and ice, and I'm still learning what can and can't de done on these studs. But it is great fun, and despite a few scary moments, I am having a great time"
<pre> Leg 1 Leaderboard After 6 of 17 Stages
1. Sainz/Moya Ford Focus WRC 1.19.08.7 2. Rovanpera/Pietilainen Peugeot 206WRC +13.2 3. Radstrom/Thorner Mitsubishi Carisma GT +19.3 4. Auriol/Giraudet Peugeot 206WRC +32.3 5. Makinen/Mannisenmaki Mitsubishi Lancer +35.6 6. Eriksson/Parmander Hyundai Accent WRC +41.6 7. Delecour/Grataloup Ford Focus WRC +49.9 8. Solberg/Mills Subaru Impreza WRC2001 +1.12.2 9. Gardemesiter/Lukander Peugeot 206WRC +1.18.1 10. Carlsson/Melander Toyota Corolla WRC +1.47.1 21. Martin/Park Subaru Impreza WRC2001 +5.57.2 34. Burns/Reid Subaru Impreza WRC2001 +12.32.8
22. Al Wahaibi/Sircombe Subaru Impreza WRC2000 +6.08.5 33. Dor/Breton Subaru Impreza WRC2000 +11.54.8
Tomorrow's leg commences at 0700hrs with the first stage starting at 1004hrs. The day's six stages take place 160km north east of Karlstad and cover 133 competitive km before concluding in the Falun ski jump arena in front of a crowd traditionally numbering 20,000 spectators