WRC

Swedish Rally: Leg one summary

Kronos Total Citroen After a breathtaking battle on the icy roads that snake through the wooded countryside, Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb returned to parc ferme in one of the factories owned by the rally's title sponsor, Uddeholm ...

Kronos Total Citroen

After a breathtaking battle on the icy roads that snake through the wooded countryside, Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb returned to parc ferme in one of the factories owned by the rally's title sponsor, Uddeholm tools. Separating them were just 10.2 seconds, in favour of the Finn.

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "We are all lucky to have experienced perfect conditions, which are really enjoyable to drive on. I'm pushing at my maximum and so is Marcus, to judge by the state of the snow banks in front of me ! Being the hunter rather than the hunted is never a bad situation to be in. And we are looking forward to continuing the fight tomorrow."

Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: The first loop of stages was a bit tricky. Compared to the Group N car I drove here three years ago, the Xsara is in another world. I needed to find a good feeling, particularly when it came to braking. My gap to Seb started off at 2 seconds per kilometre, but I halved that on the second run through the stages. I want to carry on at that pace while bearing in mind my main objective of bringing the Kronos team the maximum number of constructors' points at the finish."

OMV-Peugeot Norway

The Austrian OMV duo Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor in the Peugeot 307 WRC lies in sixth place after six of 19 special stages. This in spite of a moment of shock on special stage two when spectators crossed the course. OMV teammate Henning Solberg gained momentum after initial problems and finished the first leg of the second run to the FIA World Rally Championship in excellent seventh place.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: The rally is as difficult as we expected it to be but we are doing fine. Our current ranking also means a better starting position for Saturday. The rally is not over by far."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "The spin was definitely superfluous. We had wanted to give our all right from the beginning. In the end there were a lot of tracks on the course. If you drive at full speed in such a situation the spikes start to loosen and you continually lose grip."

BP-Ford

Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen lead the Swedish Rally after today's ice-bound opening leg in the frozen forests of Varmland. The Finns led from the very first kilometre in the same Ford Focus RS World Rally Car with which they won the Rallye Monte Carlo two weeks ago. They hold a 10.2 second advantage tonight over Sebastien Loeb. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were equally impressive in a similar Focus RS and held third throughout the day. However, an overheating engine forced them to stop on the penultimate speed test. It is not yet known whether they will be able to restart tomorrow under SupeRally regulations.

Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "We've pushed really hard all day. It's motivating to have such a big fight with Loeb, although I would be happier with a larger gap. The tyres were incredible on the long 40km stage tonight. We lost no studs and the grip remained perfect all the way. I've made a few small mistakes in the snowbanks but nothing too serious. It will be a big battle tomorrow and we will see if I can find any more speed".

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I entered a corner and the alternator warning light came on and the water temperature went up. I radioed the team and they told me to stop immediately so as not to damage the engine."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford

Nineteen-year-old Cumbrian Matthew Wilson has emerged unscathed from his first day's competition in the freezing conditions on the Swedish Rally, round two of this year's World Rally Championship. Team team-mate Kosti Katajamaki (Finland) made it through without problems. Kosti started this event on the back of fine victory on the Arctic Rally, the opening round of his domestic championship. He was looking to put that experience to good use in Sweden, but admitted he had found the going tough early in leg one.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "I've really learned a lot today. We've had some fantastic conditions to drive in, but at the same time, stage three was pretty tough going. Before that, we stalled on the last hairpin of SS2. It was quite frustrating, I could see the finish line, but I was sat there trying to fire the car up again to get over it. That third stage was really rutted, it was difficult to keep the car in the ruts on some of the longer corners. I have to say, I didn't enjoy that so much. Then in stage four, it was much quicker and really flowing. Great fun. The long one (SS5) was good, but on the road back to Hagfors, for the final stage, the car dropped onto three cylinders. Michael (Orr, co-driver) and I got out and changed the coil on the car, but that didn't help. We were going to change the spark plugs, but we ran out of time, so we decided to go in and do the short stage with the car on three cylinders. We made it through and back to service, where the boys had the chance to work on it. It's a shame about that problem, because otherwise it's been a good day.

Kosti Katajamaki/Timo Alanne: "I was definitely trying to drive the car too aggressively this morning. We were very sideways in places, too much sideways. In the longest stage (SS5) I really calmed myself down; much more precise with the car. I was much happier after that stage, I managed to get some of the time back to the group of drivers ahead. We're just outside the top 10, but not such a long way away from the places ahead."

555 Subaru

Leg one of Rally Sweden proved disappointing and frustrating for Subaru World Rally Team drivers Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson. Last year's winner Solberg ended the day 21st overall after mechanical problems prevented him from showing the potential of the new Impreza WRC2006. An impressive start for Chris Atkinson came to an end on the first corner of SS3 when a collision with a tree broke his car's power steering rack. Atkinson paid a heavy price for the mistake and dropped more than five minutes as he negotiated the rest of the loop with no power assistance. He ended the day in 26th place.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "It's such a shame that we weren't able to get the result we wanted today. The new car felt incredible yesterday and I was really excited about putting it to the test this morning. We've suffered more than our fair share of problems today and now we're in a position where we can't do anything other than test for the future. Of course we'll do what we can to learn and make the most of this opportunity but overall it's very disappointing."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "The day started out very well, and we were happy with the speed at the beginning but unfortunately a small mistake, and then the power steering problem as a result, cost us a lot of time. Otherwise I really think we could be in a position for a podium - the car and the tyres felt very good. I've just got to move on now and try to learn more over the rest of the weekend. It's a shame though; this was one of the events we were looking to get experience on and maybe a strong finish. In fact, it turned out that with our speed that we could have been heading for a really good result. I hope we can make more of the potential in Mexico."

Red Bull-Skoda Team

Both Skoda Fabia WRCs were in perfect shape despite the difficult conditions, there were no problems to speak of, correspondingly the day's summary turns out positive.

Mattias Ekstrom/Stefan Bergman: "Everything went almost perfectly for me. Just after the start of the rally I had some troubles communicating with my co-pilot and then I did not choose the right tyres for SS4. The Fabia worked flawlessly, I really enjoyed driving the car as I wanted to without having to take any risk. I expect a similar performance on Saturday."

Andreas Aigner/Timo Gottschalk: "This is an absolutely wicked rally! It is loads of fun to drive here, especially on the ice and snow, sometimes mixed with a bit of gravel. I will try again tomorrow to keep the pace without making too many mistakes, and to improve on my position along the way."

-rallye newsletter-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Mattias Ekström , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Timo Rautiainen , Manfred Stohl , Mikko Hirvonen , Kosti Katajamaki , Jarmo Lehtinen , Henning Solberg , Cato Menkerud , Ilka Minor , Xavier Pons , Matthew Wilson , Michael Orr , Chris Atkinson , Andreas Aigner , Timo Gottschalk , Timo Alanne
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport