SS1: Opening stage victory goes to Andersson
SS1, Super Special Stage Karlstad 1 (1.90 kilometres)
By 2010 rally Sweden winning co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen: "The organisers have put a good layer of ice down and we can go with fresh tyres there. Unfortunately there is not too much snow and the banks are concrete, not snow! But if you don't have snow, you don't have snow. It's always more enjoyable to drive in the forests rather than on a trotting track, which this stage uses, but it has a good layout and you get a sensation when you are competing at the same time as the other driver."
How the action unfolded: The opening stage of the 2011 World Rally Championship season resembled a winter wonderland as a constant flurry of snow coated Karlstad's floodlit trotting track.
It made for tricky driving conditions as the crews battled through the loose-surface snow on the figure of eight course. Swedish privateer PG Andersson, who relied on donations from members of the public to secure the budget needed to take part, was fastest through the test in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Andersson was 0.6s faster than factory Ford pilot Jari-Matti Latvala with Petter Solberg third in the lead Citroen DS3 WRC. "I didn't take it too quickly and wasn't sure if I was going to be fast enough but obviously it was," said Andersson. "It was good and I hope it continues like this."
Works Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen was fourth quickest, despite reporting a gear change glitch. World champion Sebastien Loeb set the fifth fastest time in his Citroen and admitted afterwards that he stopped short of taking any major risks.
Mads Ostberg completed the top six, 0.7s faster than Sebastien Ogier, one of the pre-season title favourites, who adopted a cautious approach through the stage. "The conditions were quite difficult from the recce because of the snow and there was no reason to make any mistakes on a stage like this," said Ogier.
Henning Solberg, who was fastest in Thursday morning's shakedown, dropped more than 10 seconds when he clipped a hole on the inside of a corner and spun into a snow bank in his Ford Fiesta.
Norwegian Anders Grondal tops the Production Car World Rally Championship standings overnight in his Subaru Impreza, despite a ragged run through the stage. He was one-tenth of a second faster than Swedish hero Patrik Flodin.
The stage is brought to a temporary halt after Italian Gianluca Linari charges a snow bank in his Subaru Impreza and gets stuck.