Swedish Rally: Mitsubishi final summary

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Jani Paasonen claimed maximum points in the opening round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, the Uddeholm Swedish Rally. The Finn led the 18 registered contenders from start to finish and kicks...

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Jani Paasonen claimed maximum points in the opening round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, the Uddeholm Swedish Rally. The Finn led the 18 registered contenders from start to finish and kicks off his campaign with ten points in this production car series.

Jani Paasonen / Sirka Rautiainen
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N

A huge contingent of Group N crews nevertheless entered the rally, one of the favorites in the calendar, and Mitsubishi drivers reigned supreme here as well, Mattias Ekström claiming the overall category victory. In total, Lancer Evolution drivers secured the top four positions in this highly-competitive class.

The final leg of the Swedish Rally took the remaining 51 crews back to the service park in Hagfors, the base for today’s two loops of three stages and 96.60 competitive kilometers. Heavy overnight snowfall transformed the landscape even further and while the organizers sent ploughs through the stages, there was still three centimeters of fresh snow lying on the roads. Temperatures have also dropped to -5° degrees and snow fell for most of the day making conditions even more tricky for the crews.

Jani Paasonen and co-driver Sirka Rautiainen have set the pace in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship and the Finns led the registered crews from the start. Alister McRae pushed them hard, but was ultimately out-paced by the Lancer Evolution crew who pick up 10 valuable points in the first of the series’ seven qualifying rounds.

"I’m very happy to win; I was worried about the engine because we were losing so much coolant, but in the end it was not too bad", said Jani. "It is a very good start to the season".

Daniel Solà / Xavier Amigo-Colon
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N

"Dani" Solà, former Junior World Rally Champion, finished third of the registered contenders, the Spaniard having overhauled Karamjit Singh in SS15. The rivals spent the day battling for the position until the Malaysian went off the road in stage 18 and dropped to 10th.

"It’s a good start for me", said Dani, "especially on this rally where I am not specialist and in these conditions. I have a new team and a new co-driver and I hope to improve. It’s important to start on the good foot".

Pole Tomasz Kuchar claimed fourth position. "I am not so happy about my driving on the first and second days", he said, "but today was not too bad and five points is a good start with this level of competition".

Italian "Gigi" Galli finished fifth of the registered contenders and in total, nine of the 15 finishers in the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship were driving Lancer Evolutions. "The car is okay apart from the little problem yesterday and fifth place is good", said Gigi. "I think basically the car is very good and I’m looking forward to driving it again in New Zealand".

Mattias Ekström / Stefan Bergman
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr. N

In the overall Group N leaderboard, Lancer Evolution drivers finished first, second, third and fourth, underlining the superiority of Mitsubishi’s machinery in these conditions. Swedish crews dominated and DTM driver Mattias Ekström won the category in a car prepared by himself and his Swedish friends.

"I have to say I’m very very happy to be here and that we managed to survive in the lead, even with the problem with the center differential (SS18)", said Mattias. "I was very very nervous but it was not so bad as I thought. I’m very happy and surprised that I was beating all the rally drivers and for such a long time".

Former Group N winners and fellow countrymen Kenneth Bäcklund and Stig-Olov Walfridson finished second and third respectively, with Jani Paasonen fourth overall in the category.

Sixteen FIA Production Car World Rally Championship contenders now head to México for the second round of the series. Based in Léon, approximately 400 kilometers northwest of México City, this event is new to the calendar and the first gravel rally of the season.

News from our rivals...

Sébastien Loeb drove superbly and takes the honor of becoming the first non-Nordic driver to win the Swedish Rally in 53 years. Previously, 39 Swedes and 13 Finns have won this winter rally and the Frenchman now joins an illustrious roll of honor. Loeb and his Citroën team now lead both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships having taken two straight wins. Second position was claimed by Marcus Grönholm, his only problem being a spin in the first stage of the day. Petter Solberg took the final podium position for Subaru while Ford’s inspired nomination of Janne Tuohino reaped rich rewards. The Finn finished fourth overall in an M-Sport prepared Focus and claimed five points for Ford. Carlos Sainz finished fifth after suffering with engine problems this afternoon and Henning Solberg, brother of reigning world champion Petter, rounded off the top six in a Bozian Racing Peugeot 206 WRC.

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Mattias Ekström , Carlos Sainz , Kenneth Backlund , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Alister McRae , Sébastien Loeb , Jani Paasonen , Tomasz Kuchar , Daniel Sola , Karamjit Singh , Henning Solberg , Xavier Amigo , Stefan Bergman , Sirka Rautiainen , Stig-Olov Walfridson , Janne Tuohino
Teams Citroën World Rally Team , M-Sport