Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended day one of Rally Sweden third position and right in the mix for overall victory!
Over the last few weeks, the weather had looked like it would provide perfect conditions for Rally Sweden. However, an expected mild spell changed the nature of the stages yesterday morning.
The warmer temperatures meant less snow and more humidity, and it was widely felt that it would be increasingly advantageous to be one of the early starters on the stages. On SS1, held on Thursday night as a curtain raiser to the event, this theory was confirmed. Pontus Tidemand, competing in the WRC2 category, took full advantage of his starting position to win the stage, beating all of the WRCs!
This morning, the thin layer of ice covering the roads at sunrise was gradually chipped away as crews completed the stages, leaving patches of gravel exposed on the racing line. Mads Østberg attempted to keep pace with his main rivals by setting a series of top-four times. Running eighth, Kris Meeke had to contend with even less consistent conditions. Sixth after SS6, he lost almost three minutes when he got stuck in a snow bank in this afternoon’s second loop.
We’re only 19 seconds behind the leaders, so we’re going to push!
After finishing second on SS7, Mads Østberg continued to fight at the front. Despite almost running into trouble as he avoided a spectator on SS8, he ended the day on the provisional podium, just three tenths shy of second place.
In the RC2 class, Stéphane Lefebvre ended the opening leg in fifth position in his DS 3 R5. On his first appearance in Sweden, the talented French youngster continued his learning experience. Equally in a DS 3 R5, Robin Friberg and Thomas Thunstrom also ended day one in the top 10. In a DS 3 R3-MAX, Ole-Christian Veiby leads the FIA WRC3 Championship.
Tomorrow’s leg features eight timed stages, contested over a total of 134.82 kilometres. An early start awaits the crews – Parc Ferme opens at 6.05am, with service periods in Hagfors at 11.28am and 4.51pm. The running order will be the same as today.
Mads Østberg: “We had a good rhythm this morning, but we expected to see the early starters set very good times. This afternoon, we managed to claw back a few seconds in the first few stages. Then there was an incident on a high-speed section on SS8, with a spectator walking on the racing line. It cost us something like ten seconds. Every year, I lose some ground on the Norwegian stages. Usually, I’m quicker from the Saturday onwards. We’re only 19 seconds behind the leaders, so we’re going to push!”
Kris Meeke: “The temperatures are creeping up and the snow banks are less hard. If you hit them at the wrong angle, you can get end up getting stuck. Today, it happened to others and to us as well. On SS7, we lost around three minutes. My aim is to avoid making any mistakes, but this rally is really tough. Fortunately, we picked up the pace again quickly and I felt good again in the DS 3 WRC at the end of the day.”