Five drivers set fastest times in the eight stages. Petter Solberg (Subaru) led this morning but slipped to third this afternoon. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was 21st last night after stalling at the stage start but he recovered to win two tests and...
Five drivers set fastest times in the eight stages. Petter Solberg (Subaru) led this morning but slipped to third this afternoon. Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was 21st last night after stalling at the stage start but he recovered to win two tests and climb to second behind Gronholm. The top six was rounded off by Toni Gardemeister (Mitsubishi), who led last night. The Finn spun on the first stage today but was still third at lunchtime before slipping back. Gigi Galli (Citroen) was the other stage winner, the Italian reaching second before going off this afternoon and dropping four minutes. He is 24th. Henning Solberg (Ford) was the only driver in the top four not to win a stage. Dani Sordo (Citroen) dropped nearly three minutes after going off on the day's opening test while Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) was seventh until he spun in a narrow section of stage seven and dropped to 10th. The only major retirement was Xavi Pons (Mitsubishi). He went off on the day's opening stage, filling the front of his engine with snow. He dropped 14 minutes and then stopped for good near the start of the second pass through the stage this afternoon.
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen lead the Swedish Rally after today's demanding opening leg in the frozen countryside of central Sweden. The Finns, winners of this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship last season, won three speed tests to lead by 11.1sec in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen recovered from early morning difficulties to lie fifth in a similar Focus RS.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I had a good afternoon, apart from the long stage when I thought I had attacked too hard and lost studs from my tyres. But there were only a few studs missing so I think it was just the tyre moving around a little bit. I need to try to take a few more seconds advantage over Loeb tomorrow to try to make my lead more comfortable. That won't be easy but I have to drive flat out and keep a close watch on the split times."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I regained some time this afternoon and I'm up there and fighting. Considering the problem and our road position, it has been a good day and I hope to make up more places tomorrow."
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena completed the opening leg of the 2007 Swedish Rally in 2nd place, while fellow Citroen C4 WRC runners Dani Sordo and Marc Marti ended the day in 23rd position. Sebastien's fastest times and Dani's increasingly competitive run show that the Citroen C4 WRC is competitive in these conditions on which it is competing for the first time.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "I am reassured about the potential of the C4 in these ultra-slippery conditions. I didn't want to lose too much ground compared with our rivals today and we achieved that objective. Tomorrow, we will be fighting on a level playing field, perhaps even for victory."
Dani Sordo/Marc: "This really is a rally where experience counts a great deal. At times, it was very difficult to know where to place the car because I only had the marks left by Sebastien's car to go by. I feel I'm not using the full potential of the C4 WRC but I prefer to drive at my own pace and carry on learning. I will have a better start position tomorrow, so that should make life a little easier."
The Subaru World Rally Team came to Sweden to secure more solid points finishes and ended the first leg of the event with one car firmly in the top three and the other one just outside the top eight. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills seized the outright lead of the rally on the opening stage of the day, and stayed among the frontrunners, ending the leg third overall. Chris Atkinson/Glenn Macneall planned to make a cautious start to what is only their third snow rally, but steadily upped their pace during the day and finished leg one just 3sec away from a points-scoring position.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "It's really, really tough on those stages, but I'm enjoying the fact that I am fighting in the top three. It was nice to lead a rally again on this morning's stages. Our current set is using up the tyres too quickly, that seems to be the same for Chris and I, but we can use the experience today to make different choices tomorrow."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We're a little bit further back that we'd like, but it's not the end of the world. We knew it would be a tough event so we've concentrated on keeping it tidy and driving consistently. Perhaps we were a little too cautious in some places but there are lots of quick locals out here trying to prove a point, I guess by Sunday we'll see how the strategy works."
OMV Kronos Citroen
The OMV Kronos Citroen World Rally Team has finished the first leg of the "Uddeholm Swedish Rally" with both pilots within scoring ranks. Local hero Daniel Carlsson lies in seventh place following a sensational race to catch up. The Austrian OMV Team Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor currently take eighth overall place. But they are not far behind the top ranks.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "It is extremely slippery. But that is the same for all drivers. Perhaps I was a bit too cautious. Yet I am not discontent since I am not far behind. Tomorrow we will face a very long leg with almost 142 SS-kilometres. Then the overall ranking will surely look differently."
Daniel Carlsson/Denis Giraudet: "Considering that it is a new car and that I also have a new co-driver I am rather content. In the afternoon we accepted some time loss on the first two special stages in order to attack on the long special stage. That payed off. I am very confident that we will move up even further on Saturday. After all, we are only 21,5 seconds behind the podium."
Stobart M-Sport Ford
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team are sitting strong with both Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila in top ten positions after leg 1. Solberg finished the opening leg lurking just off a podium position in fourth while Latvala drove a sensible day finishing a respectable tenth.
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila: "It has been ok but I had a spin and had to do some three point turns which lost me about 40 seconds. My driving feels like it is about 95% but I'm just missing that last 5% so I think my times can probably improve. The conditions are difficult because sometimes there is too much snow which makes it hard to hold your line and see the corners properly. I will keep trying tomorrow but I want to make sure I finish the rally also."
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "Everything is okay, I've just been learning the car on these corners but I really like the Focus. It was very very difficult today. I was off the road a couple of times this morning so I did not push too hard. I am having lots of fun. After service we made some small changes and I really started to get a better feel for the car so tomorrow we will try it step by step again. I have not pushed yet I promise you, I have a lot more to go!"
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "It has been really difficult because the conditions have been changing all the time. There's a lot of ruts out there and you're always in and out of them which takes its toll on the tyres. Last year was much easier because of the amount of grip you could get from the ice but it's a whole new way of driving this year. The windscreen was quite bad, I couldn't see on the right-handers but it got better at the end. We could probably do with a bit more ice so the studs can really bite down into it and get the grip we're after."