Swedish Rally: Hyundai leg one summary

Loix makes promising start for Hyundai in Swedish snow. Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer enjoyed the winter conditions of the Swedish Rally, the second round of the 2003 FIA World Rally ...

Loix makes promising start for Hyundai in Swedish snow.

Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer enjoyed the winter conditions of the Swedish Rally, the second round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, bringing their Accent WRC"s to overnight parc ferme in ninth and 16th positions overall.

Unlike last year where conditions were dismal from the lack of snow, the stages this year benefited from a recent cold spell leaving the roads with a plentiful covering of snow and lined with snow banks. The rally is a firm favourite of many competitors due to its conditions. It is the only true winter event of the series, demanding a specific driving style and without a good falling of snow the snow banks cannot be used for braking, stability and maintaining speed.

Freddy Loix made a cautious start to the event but picked up speed quickly after making changes to the set-up of the Accent WRC" and then continued to set a string of top ten stage times. "This afternoon has not been too bad and after our short Monte Carlo we are learning a few things about the handling," said Loix. "We will start tomorrow with a much better car than today because we are making a number of changes that will help us, particularly in the fast corners. I'm not too happy about our road position tomorrow as we will be running too near the front so I would prefer no snow and lots of ice. But on this event there are new stages and we seem to be able to go better on new stages so I will try my hardest to make the most of that tomorrow."

German team-mates Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer experienced a difficult start to the rally but improved steadily throughout the day. Armin said: "We had quite a good afternoon and even though we had a bit of understeer we saw an improvement at high speed that allowed us to push a bit harder.

"In stage five we had a big moment with a triple spin shortly before Duval's accident. It was very scary -- we were doing about 180kph on a very fast bend and we just touched a snow bank and spun around three times. We were lucky not to do any damage. Unfortunately Duval wasn't that lucky. Tomorrow our road position should be an advantage -- when you look at our times today the later runners were going faster and faster. I would like more snow -- that will help us."

Hyundai privateer Jussi Valimaki, who has been nominated for manufacturer points on this event, had an excellent first leg progressively gaining more confidence with his Accent WRC" throughout the day. Jussi said: "The day has been good but I am still feeling my way a little with the settings at the moment and I'm having to think more than I would like about the way I drive. It will be easier once I have the car just how I like it and it will be easier to set better times. I've been concentrating on driving carefully and not making any mistakes so perhaps I haven't enjoyed today as much as I hope I will enjoy tomorrow."

News from our rivals

The opening leg of the rally was eventful seeing five retirements including Ford's youngster, Francois Duval. The Belgian damaged the front suspension of his Focus on special stage five and caused the stage to be stopped after blocking the road. As only five cars completed the stage competitively, the official stewards made the decision to cancel the stage and neutralise the times of those five crews. The first car to suffer the effects of the conditions was Colin McRae (Citroen) who hit a snow bank after a pace note was delivered late and dropped about a minute in the process. Many drivers spun or stalled in stages -- Harri Rovanpera (Peugeot) was caught out in SS3 both spinning and stalling; Petter Solberg (Subaru) spun in SS5 and team-mate Tommi Makinen stalled in SS4; Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) stalled twice in SS2 and his team-mate Markko Martin narrowly avoided a collision with a house in SS5. Richard Burns (Peugeot) experienced differential problems on special stage 3 and Didier Aurol (Skoda) suffered the most after going off the road on SS2 and taking two and a half minutes to rejoin.

After the spectator-friendly 1.86km Hagfors Sprint stage Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) who set the fastest stage on time on all but one of the day's speed tests, holds the lead a comfortable 27 seconds ahead of Tommi Makinen (Subaru) in second. Richard Burns (Peugeot) lies third with team-mate Harri Rovanpera in fourth and Peugeot privateer Jusso Pykalisto in fifth.

The Rally

Leg two of the rally is the longest of the event covering 140.58 special stage kilometres. It starts with a repeat run of the 43.69km Granberget stage followed by a duo of stages east of Hagfors around Fredriksberg and another pair west in the direction of Torsby before crews return to the Hagfors Sprint for a repeat run.


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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team