Henning Solberg fastest in Sweden shakedown
Henning Solberg set the fastest time in shakedown for Rally Sweden as the new-generation World Rally Cars went head to head for the first time earlier today.
Driving a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, the M-Sport Stobart team driver set a time of 2m02.5s over the four-kilometre test in falling snow and ambient temperatures of minus two degrees centigrade.
"Everything went fine, I'm really pleased," said Solberg. "Sweden is an important rally for me and I have a big chance to do well."
Solberg completed seven runs in total and ended up one tenth of a second faster than factory Ford pilot Mikko Hirvonen. Petter Solberg was third fastest in his Citroen DS3 WRC with defending world champion Sebastien Loeb fourth.
Initially, drivers struggled for grip on the loose surface snow until a cleaner line had been formed. "It was very difficult at the start, not easy in the soft snow," said Loeb, who was the first driver to tackle the stage in his Citroen DS3 WRC.
Jari-Matti Latvala, who was fifth fastest for Ford, added: "The grip levels were a bit inconsistent because you had a layer of ice but fresh snow on top. But we had a good feeling with the car and it's important to know we have the speed also."
Competitors spent the four-hour session fine-tuning their set-ups for the event and no serious problems were reported. However, ex-Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen went into a snow bank on his first run in his Citroen DS3 WRC but suffered little delay. Ken Block also briefly left the road in his Fiesta RS WRC.
The American's team manager, Derek Dauncey, said: "We had a good test on Monday on a good road but it was more inconsistent today so it was good for him to get some experience in case we get these conditions on the rally. He's done rallies on snow before in America but they don't allow studded tyres over there so there's a lot for him to learn."
Next on the agenda for the drivers and co-drivers is the official start at Karlstad's trotting track at 20:00hrs local time. The first stage, the Karlstad Super Special, gets underway at 20:04hrs with crews going head to head over the 1.90-kilometre course.