Mads Ostberg will be a name to remember in the World Rally Championship if today's performance is just the start. The M-Sport driver took full advantage of the wintry weather to place his Ford Fiesta RS in Rally Sweden's lead at the end of the...
Mads Ostberg will be a name to remember in the World Rally Championship if today's performance is just the start. The M-Sport driver took full advantage of the wintry weather to place his Ford Fiesta RS in Rally Sweden's lead at the end of the first day.
"I've never been in this position but it feels great -- I could definitely get used to it!" smiled Ostberg who then added, "We had a very good morning and the car was running perfectly but I lost some time this afternoon which is a little disappointing."
With the aid of his navigator Jonas Andersson, the Norwegian -- who only had posted two stage wins before today -- leads Mikko Hirvonen by 14.8 seconds. Ostberg added three more stage wins to his tally since his first WRC event which was Rally Sweden in 2006. It was also the first time in the WRC that the Adapta team held the overall lead after a full day of competition.
"I'm going to be first on the road tomorrow which is a disadvantage so I really wanted to make as big a gap as possible to try and take off some pressure tomorrow morning," said the rally leader.
Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team ended second with Mikko Hirvonen after the first day that was held in blizzard conditions. The first stage was held last night in Karlstad before tackling the six remaining specials today. By the end of the day, the temperatures had fallen to a negative 14C. The heavy snow in the forests were more icy on the surface which was good for the teams as they were using the tungsten-tipped studded tires but loose snow was a factor especially for those who took to the road first.
"My start position helped but conditions were still incredibly difficult this morning," Hirvonen said. "Everything worked perfectly and the handling was great, but trying to learn a new car in such difficult weather wasn't easy. I had a few close escapes and came close to spinning in slow corners on several occasions. Perhaps I was too cautious in places as a result, but I made no mistakes."
While Ostberg had a great opening, his day ended with an error on the final stage and thus he had to slow down after he hit a hole and damaged his Fiesta's spotlights. His vision in the gloom of the evening was not spot-on. Still he ends the first leg with the overall lead.
"The last stage today was just unbelievable -- I hit a dip about 2 km in and knocked the front light pod so it was pointing at a funny angle. It was a nightmare to try and drive without proper lighting and I couldn't see much but I was still trying to push. In my head, there is no such thing as tactics -- I just go at my own speed and enjoy it but tomorrow I will be on maximum attack," said Ostberg.
Third on the day was privateer Citroen entrant, Petter Solberg who is over 42 seconds off of Hirvonen. Still Solberg was the best in the new Citroen DS3 while the debut of the new Ford Fiesta was a good one, taking four of the top five spots with Jari-Matti Latvala fourth while Stobart's Henning Solberg sits fifth. One could also say it was a good day for the Finns and Norwegians.
The two top drivers for the Citroen factory team were back in sixth and ninth with Sebastien Ogier ahead of the seven time WRC champion, Sebastien Loeb. It was the younger Frenchman who also landed a stage win in the afternoon as he learns his craft in the snow.
"This scratch is just a detail," said Ogier. "What's important is the fact that we were the quickest in the three stages. It's very encouraging for the future. We're in the groove and we'll have a better starting position on the second day. Even if the weather's going to be different with cold, dry conditions, we should be well placed to take advantage of it."
For the reigning champion the day was much more frustrating. As the first car out, Loeb lost a lot of time on each morning stage as he plowed through the snow to clear the way for his rivals. His pace improved on stage six in the afternoon and held seventh but a puncture on the day's final stage dropped him back to ninth.
"We completed the stage trying to lose as little time as possible," explained Loeb. "Our chances of a podium finish are seriously compromised. We'll just have to fight to score as many points as we can."
Local hero PG Anderson started off strong by winning the opening Super Special held yesterday, but now sits 12th after rolling his Ford on stage two. Patrik Sandell is now the highest placed Swede; his Super 2000 Skoda Fabia is seventh overall and first in his class.