STOBART'S ШSTBERG SECOND IN SWEDEN
Mads Шstberg is just 0.3 seconds from leading Rally Sweden, despite the M-Sport Stobart driver acting as a road sweeper throughout this morning's snow-covered opening leg.
The 23-year-old Norwegian, driving the all-new Ford Fiesta RS WRC in partnership with Adapta Motorsport, had led the WRC season-opener since Friday's opening stage and held a 14.8 second lead over Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen going into Day 2.
First on the road this morning was a disadvantage for Шstberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson - the duo were forced to sweep loose snow from the 62.80 km loop, creating a cleaner pass for the other WRC drivers behind them.
Шstberg held the rally lead until Stage 10 but lost 0.7 seconds to Hirvonen on the final speed test, knocking the Scandinavian back into second place.
Team-mates Henning Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor were sitting fifth overnight after setting two top three fastest stage time on the opening day. However, a power steering problem with the Norwegian's Fiesta RS WRC meant that Solberg was four minutes late out of Friday morning's service. The M-Sport Ford driver encountered another dose of bad luck when he rolled 2 km into Stage 8. Both team-mates are fine but it will not be known if the pair can restart under SupeRally regulations until the car returns to service later this afternoon.
Britain's Matthew Wilson suffered from power steering problems yesterday morning but the 24-year-old battled back in the afternoon to finish the first full day of action 15th overall. Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin had a relatively trouble-free morning and currently lie 12th overall.
Mads Шstberg said:
"This morning was all about not losing too much time. It's difficult to win stages when running first on the road but all we could do was push as hard as we could. There was a lot more snow on the first stage so it was much tougher than I had been expecting. We suffered with the times because we were having to clear so much snow off the road -- especially in the middle section where there was a lot of loose snow on the corners. I knew the road conditions would have been better for the drivers behind me but we haven't lost as much time as I'd though. It's getting very close now -- I'm only 0.3 seconds off Mikko and hopefully I can make back some time this afternoon. I'll be speaking to the team over service to see which stages they think that I can go for maximum attack."
Matthew Wilson said:
"Everything has been working much better this morning and the car set-up is good. It's difficult running a bit further down the road as the WRC front-runners have already used a lot of the snow banks - it's difficult to know how much we can lean on them without everything collapsing. We made two big mistakes due to this on Stage 10 which cost us a bit of time. We also lost a lot of time on Stage 11 towards the last 8 km -- there was some very twisty sections so it could have been that we weren't being aggressive enough. It'll be clearer for this afternoon so we should be able to improve on our times for the second pass."