Long-time leaders Markko MÃ¤rtin and Michael Park had their hopes of becoming the first non-Nordic drivers to win the Swedish Rally dashed this afternoon when their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car slid into a snowbank and broke the rear ...
Long-time leaders Markko Märtin and Michael Park had their hopes of becoming the first non-Nordic drivers to win the Swedish Rally dashed this afternoon when their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car slid into a snowbank and broke the rear suspension.
Märtin's disappointment was joy for Sebastien Loeb (Citroen). He inherited the lead and after winning three speed tests, he ended the day with an advantage of 40.6sec over Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot). Grönholm recovered well from yesterday's power steering failure to win four stages. However, a spin near the start of the 39.95km Vargåsen cost 15 seconds. Petter Solberg (Subaru) went off the road for 45 seconds on the opening stage and later hit the same rock as Märtin, but the damage was less serious and he lies third.
Carlos Sainz (Citroen) lies fifth behind Tuohino, despite losing nearly a minute when he went off the road this morning and had to stop and clear snow from his radiator. Another to go off was Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru) who dropped six minutes after sliding into a snowbank and getting stuck. He is ninth.
Kristian Sohlberg (Mitsubishi) retired after exceeding his permitted time following transmission problems in service before the opening stage while Freddy Loix (Peugeot) dropped almost two minutes after going off on the second test. He then retired on the penultimate stage with engine problems.
Starting fourth, Carlos Sainz gained one place when Petter Solberg was delayed (SS6). Two stages later, it was the turn of the Madrid-based driver to lose time. Carlos slipped down to seventh place, but bad luck had not yet finished with him. In "Lejen" (SS9), he was taken by surprise by Mikko Hirvonen. The young Finn was just getting going again, after having gone off, and had not seen the Xsara approaching. To avoid a collision, the Spaniard turned hard left, nose in the snow bank, and finished by spinning, losing another thirty seconds. Despite this incident, Carlos gained one place, at the expense of young Mikko. With no problems during the last four special stages, Sainz began to make his recovery, setting some excellent times. This evening he is waiting in ambush, just a few tenths of a second behind Tuohino, and has not lost hope of climbing higher in the classification before reaching the finish line.
After the misadventures which befell his Spanish team-mate, Sébastien Loeb found himself caught between the leader, Markko Märtin, and Marcus Grönholm, the Swedish Rally's three times winner. Having got to grips with the road conditions, different from those encountered yesterday, and with the possibility of leaning against the snow banks, Seb set his first fastest time of the day (SS9), thwarting both Martin's breakaway and Grönholm's return.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "I inherited the lead," Seb commented calmly. "I am obviously not going to say that I am not satisfied, but I am not getting over excited about it either. What happened to Markko proves that at the speeds we are driving, it is very easy to make a mistake. I mustn't lose my concentration to maintain the same pace in order to keep Marcus Grönholm behind me^Å"
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "In a dip, the front of the car plunged into the snow. It blocked the engine air intake. I had to stop so that my co-driver Marc Marti could clear it. "
Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm has ended leg two of the Swedish Rally in second place, just 40 seconds behind the leader. His team mate Freddy Loix was forced to retire from a points-scoring position with engine problems on the penultimate stage. Marcus charged into the lead of the Swedish Rally at the start yesterday, but later dropped a minute with power steering problems. He began this morning in sixth, but a string of consecutive fastest times soon promoted him to third overall. He moved up to second on SS11, and is now in a strong position to take advantage of any opportunities that come his way.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "The spin was just a stupid mistake, but it caused us a bit of a problem," he said. "It was not so easy to drive without lights! We're still in the race though, and we're going to be pushing hard again tomorrow, like we have been all day today. I think the gap to the front is too big to catch, but you never know in rallying. I'm certainly not giving up!"
Freddy lost time after going off the road during this morning's tricky conditions, and he was also affected by an engine misfire under braking. The Belgian persevered as best as he could, but had to retire when his engine stopped on the penultimate stage.
Both Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen delivered some impressive times in their Subaru Impreza's today, including a stage win for Petter on SS13. Despite both suffering spins, the Subaru duo ended the day in the top ten. Petter lies third, well positioned for a podium finish, while Mikko is ninth.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "It's been a difficult day. I'm surprised at the final position, especially considering that, with the exception of the final stage, I haven't had an incident free stage all day. It's been great to see so many supporters out in the stages again. Hopefully, I can do a good job tomorrow to make them feel proud. Anything is still possible, even the win, I'm just going to do my best."
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "Yes, all okay. I had one accident and that cost me pretty bad. You definitely have to have a bit of luck here, just look at Marcus - flat out, 360-degree spin, and ended up in the middle of the stage. Whereas I slid off doing 50 kph and got stuck for six minutes! Overall, I think it's been another good day and I can't complain. We'll see what happens tomorrow, I'm really looking forward to it."
Long-time leaders Markko Märtin and Michael Park had their hopes of becoming the first non-Nordic drivers to win the Swedish Rally dashed this afternoon when their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car slid into a snowbank and broke the rear suspension. Although the Ford BP Rallye Sport duo managed to recover and stay in a points-scoring position, it is Finns Janne Tuohino and Jukka Aho who lead the Ford challenge on this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship in fourth place.
Tuohino, driving an M-Sport-run Focus RS and making his debut for Ford, has kept clear of trouble in treacherous conditions which have caught out many of the top drivers. Märtin lies eighth but Ford BP team-mates François Duval and Stéphane Prévot dropped to 46th after spending almost 45 minutes in a ditch when they were caught out in the snowy conditions.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: "The result was there on a plate for us but now it has gone and that was my mistake. I just leaned a bit harder than everyone else on that snowbank. I'm really disappointed and sorry for the team. Tomorrow we must make sure we can bring some points back."
Janne Tuihino / J Aho: "I was far too careful and that was stupid. Then I stalled the engine twice in the final stage. Tomorrow I'm going to have to go as fast as I can, without taking too many risks, to try to regain third. The problem is that I'm not sure I can do that safely because I still don't know the car so well."
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Kristian Sohlberg and Kaj Lindström was forced into retirement this morning after transmission problems resulted in them going over the permitted time.
"This morning we couldn't fix a transmission problem in the time allowed, so Kristian was late at the time control and then out of the rally", commented MMSP Technical Director Mario Fornaris. "It's a pity for us because we were expecting to have more information from this rally, but overall the feeling between Monte-Carlo and here is good; we have made some improvements during the rally. Now we are looking forward to México; we have a gravel test next week with parts to fix the problems we've had here".
Finland's Jani Paasonen continues to lead the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship contenders in the 2004 Swedish Rally and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver has a one minute 3.2 second lead after a total of thirteen special stages.
With a total stage distance of 96.60km, Leg three is the shortest of the rally and starts when crews leave the Karlstad parc ferme at 0530hrs. The real action starts at 0804hrs when the first car will start the 14.17km Sagen test, followed by the 15km Rammen stage and 10.78km Hara. After a 20-minute service halt back in Hagfors, crews will then repeat all three stages in the afternoon. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp back at 1638hrs.
Following overnight snow, temperatures remained around freezing for most of the day. Stages were a mixture of snow and ice