With just over sixty kilometres of timed stages, day one of Rally Sweden was the shortest leg on this year’s calendar.
Rally Sweden got underway yesterday evening with a short, televised super special stage. After a night in Karlstad, this morning the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team headed for the Hagfors service park, located 85 kilometres to the north. Today’s leg featured six stages completed without any service period, including four over the border in Norway.
Looking to find the right feeling in the car, Mads Østberg made use of the midday regroup to work on improving the set-up of his Citroën DS3 WRC. In the afternoon, the Norwegian proved to be increasingly competitive before setting the second fastest time on the final stage. He ended the day in fifth overall, within striking distance of the leaders.
Handed a penalty for a false start at the beginning of the race, Khalid Al Qassimi made steady progress up through the standings to reach twentieth position on the day’s final test.
Nine stages are scheduled for tomorrow’s second leg. The crews set off from Hagfors at 7am for a day featuring a total of 532 kilometres, with 117kms of timed stages. After SS16, the competitors will drive their cars into parc ferme in Karlstad at 7.40pm.
Mads Østberg: “It has been an interesting first leg. The surface was quite slippery this morning with a mix of fresh snow and slush. Our set-up wasn’t ideal this morning, but we managed to make some improvements before the second loop. My driving was also better in the afternoon. When there was a bit of gravel, I felt more confident. We’re moving in the right direction.”
Kris Meeke: “I have to say I really enjoyed myself today. Finnskogen is one of the greatest stages that I have driven on in my career. There has been a bit of snow and the temperatures have dropped since we did recce. I’m not too bothered about where I am in the standings – the times only serve as a benchmark for me. I’m pleased with the car and the conditions are pretty good. We have to keep doing the same thing tomorrow.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “We were fairly cautious this morning. I felt more comfortable in the quick sections. Chris and I also need to get our bearings in the car. This is the first time we have competed together. We’re still making adjustments to the pace notes. I’m trying to find the right balance in my driving style. As I grow in confidence, I think I can push harder.”
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Kris stuck to the plan we had drawn up before the rally. He adopted a cautious pace so as to avoid any unpleasant surprises. He has had a good first leg, slowly but surely increasing his pace as the day progressed. Mads needed a little time to find his feet. Driving in tests is one thing, driving competitively is another thing entirely. He lost around ten seconds this morning as he got to grips with the car and the conditions. His second fastest time on the final stage augurs very well for the rest of the rally. I’d expect him to get closer to the leaders.”
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team