Petter Solberg revelled in the Leg's difficult conditions and delivered an impressive performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza to end the day in third place, 26.9 seconds behind overnight leader Markko Martin. His team-mate Mikko Hirvonen...
Petter Solberg revelled in the Leg's difficult conditions and delivered an impressive performance at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza to end the day in third place, 26.9 seconds behind overnight leader Markko Martin. His team-mate Mikko Hirvonen also set a string of competitive times and, despite only have contested the event once previously, ended the day well positioned in seventh place.
SS1: 0822 Lidsbron (19.59km)
The 54th Swedish Rally started with a brand new stage at the
town of Lidsbron. Although a new challenge to all the drivers,
three-times past winner of the event, Marcus Gronholm put his experience
to good effect and completed the 19.59km test fastest to take the first
win of the day. Carlos Sainz was second fastest and Sebastien Loeb
third. Despite numerous forecasts of overnight snow, there was none on
the opening test and most crews opted to run studded ice tyres to cope
with the road surface of ice and frozen gravel. Subaru's Petter Solberg
made a solid start and was fifth fastest, while his team-mate Mikko
Hirvonen was eighth. No such luck for Mitsubishi driver Kristian
Sohlberg. Making his WRC debut for his team, the 26-year-old Finn spun
his Lancer twice, sustaining bodywork damage before crossing the finish
48.3 seconds behind the leader. After the stage, crews stopped for a
refuel before moving to the start of SS2.
Fastest Time: Gronholm (Peugeot) 9:20.4
SS2: 0934 Torntorp (19.21km)
This time it was Carlos Sainz who took the stage win. He
completed the 19.21km section 0.2 seconds ahead of Markko Martin who was
second. As three-time runner-up of the event, the Spaniard was pushing
hard to break the Scandinavian stranglehold, but the Finns were right on
the pace: Ford nominated driver Janne Tuohino and his compatriot Marcus
Gronholm were fourth and fifth fastest, while Mikko Hirvonen was sixth,
finishing 2.7 seconds off the lead and ahead of drivers with far more
experience. Kristian Sohlberg's bad luck continued. Both Mitsubishi
entries were struggling with transmission problems, but 5kms before the
finish line the Finn locked his wheels under braking and went off the
road into a snow bank. He was able to continue, but dropped over four
minutes. Solberg was ninth fastest after a small spin cost him ten
seconds and he crossed the finish to set exactly the same time as older
brother Henning, competing here in a Bozian racing Peugeot 206 WRC.
After the stage was complete, crews returned to Hagfors for a scheduled
Fastest Time: Sainz (Citroen) 10:10.0
SS3: 1137 Granberget 1 (52.57km)
Described by Petter Solberg's co-driver Phil Mills as 'a
monster' of a stage, Granberget is the third longest in the entire
championship. Recording an average speed of 127kph, Ford's Markko Martin
was fastest through the mammoth 52.57km, while Subaru's Petter Solberg
finished second. Citroen's Loeb was third. There were no leading
retirements, but the demanding test took its toll on some of the
front-running cars. Gronholm dropped almost a minute after struggling
through the final 20km with no power steering on his Peugeot 307, while
his team-mate Freddy Loix reported problems with engine power. Gilles
Panizzi's Lancer continued to be dogged by transmission problems, and
the Frenchman lost well over a minute, despite his team having changed
the gearbox in the preceding service - an incident which had cost him a
ten-second penalty for leaving service late. After the finish, he would
have been glad to return to Hagfors for the third scheduled service of
Fastest Time: Martin (Ford) 24:56.4
SS4: 1502 Granberget 1 (52.57km)
As rain started to fall, the second pass through the slippery
Granberget test brought the first leading WRC retirement of the event.
Panizzi's continuing transmission trouble finally brought his Lancer to
a halt 2km from the finish. Unable to restart, he was forced to retire
leaving team-mate Kristian Sohlberg, who had dropped a further two
minutes in the test with a spin, as the remaining Mitsubishi works
driver. Markko Martin repeated his earlier charge to take another stage
win and extend his lead by another 10.1 seconds, while a rejuvenated
Gronholm was second and Solberg third. The Norwegian's consistent
performance moved him to third overall. Opting to run on long-studded
tyres to cope with the expected full ice conditions, Citroen's Carlos
Sainz struggled to find sufficient grip on the patches of gravel that
had been exposed on the first pass through and they ripped the studs
from his tyres. He finished seventh, 26.6 seconds off the pace. After
the finish, crews moved directly to the start of SS5
Fastest Time: Driver (Manufacturer) Time
SS5: 1704 Hagfors Sprint 1 (1.86km)
An enthusiastic crowd cheered the leading WRC drivers as they
drove the new Super Special Stage in the town of Hagfors - the first
sprint stage of the event. Running one by one, crews charged round the
short, twisty stage, negotiating narrow gates, hairpin corners and a
slippery road surface, which looked more like a skating rink than a
rally stage in places. Citroen's Sebastien Loeb was fastest, with Markko
Martin and Carlos Sainz joint second and Petter Solberg fourth. After
the finish, crews returned to the service area for the final service of
Fastest Time: Driver (Manufacturer) Time
"It's been an incredible day, much better that I expected. I've never done well here before so I'm very happy. We had no real problems today just the spin earlier, but that's just part of the game. Since then, it's been perfect. Out on the stages there's an incredible atmosphere - I've never seen so many Norwegian flags. The conditions suit my driving and if it stays the same tomorrow, I'll do my best to beat Markko and Sebastien."
"It's been a perfect day, especially if you don't count the second run through Granberget! We lost quite lot of time there. I stalled at a junction and got stuck behind Panizzi, but overall my confidence has risen and it feels very good. Like a lot of rallies this year, my main priority is experience, but of course I'm still going to push when I am able so we'll just see what's possible tomorrow."
David Lapworth Team Principal
"It's been a very satisfying day. The boys have both kept out of trouble, kept a good solid pace and both cars have been 100 per cent reliable. We're exactly where we wanted to be at the end of the first Leg, but there is still a lot more of this rally to go, and with the weather we're expecting tomorrow anything can happen."
News from Pirelli
Fiore Brivio , Pirelli Tyres Rally Manager:
"The Swedish Rally started today with temperatures of around 0°C and stages that were a mixture of frozen gravel and ice. Both Petter and Mikko opted to use the Pirelli P-Zero J1 studded tyre, which performed excellently. We're delighted with the progress of both drivers and hope it continues for the remainder of the event."
Studs in Sweden
In Sweden, drivers face extremely slippery stage conditions. To cope with this specialist challenge, Subaru World Rally Team drivers Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen will be using skinny Pirelli P-Zero tyres, fitted with tungsten carbide tipped studs that bite into the surface to obtain maximum grip.
Compared to a typical non-studded competition tyre, the Swedish spec Pirelli's provide three times more grip for better acceleration, cornering and braking. In fact a Subaru WRC fitted with studded tyres can achieve far shorter braking distances on ice than a regular road car can on dry tarmac. Here are some other Sweden tyres stats:
The tyres used on Rally Sweden are much narrower than those used on asphalt or gravel rallies. This means each tyre has a smaller 'footprint' and a higher pressure contact area which helps it break through the loose surface to the harder ground below: Asphalt tyre width 224mm, Gravel tyre width 205mm, Snow tyre width 135mm
While it is often the tyre compound that is the most important factor in achieving maximum tyre performance on tarmac or gravel, in icy conditions selecting the correct tread pattern and stud type is vital
Swedish Rally regulations state that that the maximum length of each tyre stud is 20mm. Once securely anchored into the rubber, they typically protrude between five and six millimetres from the tyre.
Longer stud protrusions are used in softer, snowy conditions, (when they are not at risk of being broken by stones or packed ice) while on hard ice or gravel (like we have seen on Leg one) shorter protrusions are preferred. FIA regulations limit the number of studs that can be fitted to each tyre to 400. Each stud must weigh no more that 4g
Over the three days of the rally, including spares, Petter and Mikko are expected to use 43 Pirelli tyres each
Saturday 7 February
Leg two starts tomorrow at 0530hrs when crews leave Karlstad parc fermé and travel 85km north to Hagfors for the first service of the day. The longest of the event, Leg two includes a further eight stages and 151.94 competitive kilometres. Based around the single service in Hagfors, Leg two includes a second visit to the Hagfors Super Special Stage. The first test starts at 0746hrs.