Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was fastest on the final two stages to add to his tally of four second fastest times behind Gronholm. Gigi Galli and Daniel Carlsson (both Mitsubishi) enjoyed a fierce fight for the final podium place. They changed ...
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was fastest on the final two stages to add to his tally of four second fastest times behind Gronholm. Gigi Galli and Daniel Carlsson (both Mitsubishi) enjoyed a fierce fight for the final podium place. They changed positions three times before Carlsson eked out a 0.3sec advantage. Mattias Ekstrom (Skoda) endured a frustrating day. A small off this morning was followed by an electrical problem this afternoon but after dropping to seventh from an overnight fifth, the Swede recovered to fifth, just 0.1sec ahead of Janne Tuohino (Citroen). Henning Solberg (Peugeot) climbed to sixth before losing 1min 45sec after rolling in stage 11. He is now ninth. Team-mate Manfred Stohl retired on the same stage after crashing into a ditch and ripping a wheel from the car. Petter Solberg's (Subaru) troubled rally continued. He dropped 45 seconds with gearbox problems on stage nine, slid into a snowbank on the following test and hit a steel post on the last stage, damaging the right steering arm and losing a further 2min 30sec. He is 14th. Kristian Sohlberg (Subaru) retired from seventh at the final service with engine problems.
Kronos Total Citroen
Despite temperatures that were well below freezing, the sun shone on a battle between Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb that was as hot as ever, givingthe thousands of fans who flocked to the forests something to remember. The warring duo shared the spoils on the stages today. By winning the first five tests, Marcus took his lead to 28.1s. However, Sebastien quickly replied by setting fastest times on Vargåsen and the Hagfors Sprint stage, bringing the gap back down to 25.1s overnight.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "We have been pushing hard all day. When he feels at one with his car Marcus is a formidable adversary, and that seems to be the case here. On the whole, I reckon he was slightly quicker than us throughout the day. Furthermore I think I made two mistakes with tyre choice. I did not have the long studs when I needed them in the first loop of stages, and then I put them on for the second loop of stages when just the standard studs would have been better. Having said that, it is far from all over. I'm going to be pushing my hardest from the start of tomorrow, in order to pile on the pressure."
Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: "I found a rhythm that I felt comfortable with. My progress is not as quick as I might have hoped. But it's very real, both in terms of the times I am setting and also for my confidence. I am keeping a firm eye on the manufacturers' championship points I could score. I am currently on three, and I am going to do everything I can to protect them."
It was a jinxed eleventh special stage for the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team at the "Uddeholm Swedish Rally". First Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud's Peugeot 307 WRC overturned just two kilometres short of the finish. Thanks to the help of fans they were able to complete the stage. Bozian Racing did a perfect job at the service zone and the OMV duo finished leg two in ninth place. Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor had less luck. After their accident the engine died and couldn't be restarted. Blessing in disguise for OMV Peugeot Norway Team: all four drivers remained unharmed.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "We went on for another fifty metres but then the engine died and we couldn't restart it. I suppose that the drive shaft was damaged and a cable had snapped, as well. The fans were right there and immediately began to help us. This time around it was the 'Peugeot corner' where we met our fate - too bad, for up to then everything had been going great"
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "The snowbanks were missing in this right turn. The car started to slither across, our front got hit and we took off to the left. During the rollover the windshield broke and we got loads of snow in the car. I really must thank the fans - they helped us turn the car back over and therefore we were able to finish the stage."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen dominated today's second leg of the Swedish Rally to extend their advantage at the top of the leaderboard. They won five of the day's seven speed tests in the frozen forests of central Sweden to arrive at the final overnight halt with a 25.1 second lead in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I stalled at the beginning of the penultimate stage and didn't really have a clean run but only dropped a couple of seconds to Sebastien. There are many kilometres remaining and you can never have enough of a lead. But I will continue to drive normally tomorrow and so long as we do not encounter any problems, then everything should be OK".
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "I've not pushed hard and so I'm pleased with my times. I think there wasn't quite as much turbo boost as we had yesterday. The first stage this morning was twisty so I didn't notice it but the next contained a lot of long, fast straights and the car didn't seem as powerful. But that's OK because we can't score a good result now so my target was to test and the car was fine for that. We learned a lot about the tyres and studs which should help Marcus' tyre choice tomorrow."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
After another tricky day on the frozen stages in central Sweden, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team drivers Matthew Wilson and Kosti Katajamaki are poised to score their first ever manufacturer points in the World Rally Championship.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "We were in the middle of the tenth stage when I had my problem. It wasn't really an off as such. Basically we were in the ruts, like we had been - and you have to be - on all of the re-run stages. Maybe we had braked a tiny bit late, but the car jumped out of the ruts and understeered off the road. We actually landed on top of the bank, a bank where there weren't many spectators. More people came and helped to lift the car off the bank and put it down on the road, it was amazing to see them lifting the car. I have to say a big thanks to those people, without them I don't think we'd have been able to get back on the road.
Kosti Katajamaki/Timo Alanne: "It's always tough to drive a rally car without power steering, it's so heavy on the arms. The spin was nothing to do with the power steering problem, though. We were going to fast for the corner, it was my fault. Then on the second run through the long stage - Vargasen - we started to have some studs coming out of the tyres. We were losing a bit of traction. I was a little bit disappointed with this stage, and to be honest with my overall position in the rally, but okay we are ready to try and set some good times tomorrow."
After a problematic Leg one for the Subaru World Rally Team, Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson's main focus for today's second Leg was testing and development work. Experimenting with different car settings, Petter made an impressive start to the day and recorded top three times on the morning's loop of three stages. He ended the Leg in 14th place after losing time with a gearshift problem and steering damage later in the day. Atkinson too made the most of the opportunity to learn on the icy roads. He improved on his Leg one position of 26th overall and will begin tomorrow's final leg in 13th place.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "Well, we've had a few good stages today. Our pace over the first four was okay and, until the gearbox problem in the afternoon, things were looking promising. Of course, after yesterday's difficulties, we've concentrated a lot of our efforts on testing and learning for the future. So, in that respect we've had a useful day. Finding the metal pole in the snow bank on the last stage was unfortunate but it would have been much worse if we'd found it when we were fighting for a win. We're keeping our spirits up and hope to learn more out on the stages tomorrow."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "For us it's been a day of testing and learning things. We've been trying different tyres and set-ups to Petter and seeing the difference. Sometimes that has worked well, other times it's not been so great, but that's the way to learn."
Red Bull-Skoda Team
Arctic temperatures again on the second day of the Uddeholm Swedish Rally near Hagfors at 21 degrees centigrade below zero. The stages were firmly frozen, which led to several incidents with corresponding damage to the bodywork. So far, the second WRC event of the season plays out to be very satisfying for Red Bull Skoda. Mattias Ekstrom is in fifth place overall after 13 special stages completed and is consequently in a position to bring home points for Skoda, both in the drivers' and the manufacturers' championships.
Mattias Ekstrom/Stefan Bergman: "The car felt comfortable the whole day long. If you look at the stage times, you realise how close this rally is fought. I stalled the engine on the last stage and lost eleven seconds just like that. Tiny mistakes may cost you one or even two positions. It's like a roller coaster. That's why it's so important to stay error-free yet swift on Sunday."
Andreas Aigner/Timo Gottschalk: "Sometimes you lose time when you are off-course and you have to wait for spectators to push you back. Apart from that I am happy with the times I achieved, but on the final test I had a misfire. Still, the most important thing for me is that I can learn extremely much here. Every kilometre is helping me - and in order to maximize my total mileage, tomorrow I will try to get to the finish in Karlstad."