STOBART'S ШSTBERG LEADING RALLY SWEDEN
M-Sport Stobart Ford's Mads Шstberg is currently leading Rally Sweden after a fairytale start at the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship season-opener.
The 23-year-old Norwegian driving in conjunction with Adapta Motorsport had completed just one short test in the all-new Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car prior to Sweden. However, Шstberg and Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson posted two fastest stage times on the first 64.67 km loop. The M-Sport Stobart duo also completed Stage 3 second-fastest, just one second adrift of fellow Fiesta RS WRC driver P-G Andersson.
The Scandinavian pairing pulled into the Service B at Hagfors 24.8 seconds clear of Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen who currently sits in second place.
Team-mates Henning Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor set the fastest time at Shakedown pre Rally Sweden but suffered from a spin on Thursday evening's Super Special Stage in Karlstad. Despite Solberg reporting slippery road conditions, the pair finished Stage 4 second-fastest and pulled into service sixth overall.
Britain's Matthew Wilson reported steering problems throughout the opening three stages in Sweden. The 24-year-old and his fellow Cumbrian co-driver Scott Martin finish the morning 19th overall.
Mads Шstberg said:
"This is fantastic! I'm feeling very good and I am confident driving this car. I trust the pace notes, I trust my co-driver and most of all I trust the fantastic car that I am driving. I really pushed in the first stage but since then I've not been taking any risks but everything has just been going better and better for us. For sure, I've been able to take advantage of my good road position but I think if we continue to follow the lines and keep the same set-up it will be a good afternoon. We will run with two spares this afternoon, just as a precaution, but we have really been enjoying ourselves out on the stages this morning."
Henning Solberg said:
"The road conditions are tricky but the last stage was the best for me and I started to feel like I was in control. For sure, the roads are very slippery and I've not had much time to get used to the new car but the conditions are hard for everyone. Everything is new with the car and I am just not used to driving in such harsh snow conditions like we experienced out there this morning. But on every stage I am learning more and more and I will continue to push this afternoon."
Matthew Wilson said:
"It's been a very difficult morning. The conditions have been hard on the roads and when the car starts to slide, the steering locks and it feels as if the car goes solid. The car feels very heavy and it's not giving me any confidence - it's not good in conditions which are as hard as these. Stage 4 was the most difficult and I lost a lot of time but this afternoon should be a bit clearer. We will have to work hard at service - the rack and pump are going to be changed which will hopefully help and make it work better for the second pass."