It’s Finnish in top form after the first day of Rally Sweden. Jari-Matti Latvala leads before his countryman Mikko Hirvonen. Third place is the Norwegian Petter Solberg. Reigning world champion Sebastien Loeb is gone from head battle since he lost two minutes in a snow bank on SS7.
It was an eventful first day in Rally Sweden, the second race in the FIA World Rally Championship. Of the nine stages six were run in its entirety in Norway. But it was not a home drivers who were most successful. In the top of the result list after the first day is Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford’s first driver. After a tough duel with Mikko Hirvonen, he made a slight tug on the day’s final forest stretch, SS9 Torsby, and made sure that he has 16.8 seconds to go on during Saturday’s stage.
– It’s been a good fight today, especially between me and Mikko. But Peter is not far off in time so I do not anticipate that it will be easy tomorrow, ‘said the Finn before he left the service area in Hagfors to go down to Karlstad and the evening’s final super special on Färjestadtravet.
Hirvonen, who won Rally Sweden in a Ford the past two years, was pleased with his first day of competition on snow and ice behind the steering wheel of a Citroen DS3 WRC.
– Too bad that I lost so much time on the SS8. There I had poor traction and slided all over the road, ‘said Finn, who was after Torsby 17.2 seconds behind his countryman.
Third Placed Petter Solberg had saved a set of new tires for SS9, won it and are close behind Hirvonen in to Saturday. Petter was happy even if he did not win their first stage who went just past his yard in Mitandersfors on the Swedish side of the border.
– In fact I was a little nervous about making a mistake, so I backed off a little before we came to the farm. After we passed it, and all spectators where I focused fully on, he said.
Last year’s sensation Mads Østberg introduced the day most of all to victory on “Solberg stage”. Then he fell back slightly and is 4th for Saturday’s stage.
– We had problems with the traction, told Östbergs Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson.
Russian Evgeny Novikov showed he is a man to follow in the Monte Carlo Rally, and also opened the first leg of Rally Sweden well. He is the 5th for the restart on Saturday morning. Next to him were Henning Solberg, Sebastien Loeb and the best Swedish, eighth placed Patrik Sandell.
– Apart from the last two sections, this was my coolest and funniest rally day in life. It has been fantastic to drive WRC car in Rally Sweden, testified Sandell, who, like many others, lost time at the end of the stage.
– I should have brought my two spare wheels instead of one when we left the service area in Kongsvinger. It was a mistake, he admitted.
Super 2000 class topped by Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, who joins after him have his team mate at Volkswagen Motorsport, a Norwegian, Andreas Mikkelsen.
PG Andersson is the third and first of the S2000-driver who is notified to the World Cup in SWRC class. World Championship runner-up behind Anderson is Irishman Craig Breen and third Pontus Tidemand from Charlottenberg in Värmland.
The latter shaded Andersson until SS8, where he was in a snow bank and lost nearly four minutes.
– It came in the snow in the air filter and the car died. There was nothing else to do but to stop and change. Shame on an otherwise good day, said Tidemand.
Rally Sweden after the first leg
1) Jari-Matti Latvala, Finland, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, 1.23.50,8
2) Mikko Hirvonen, Finland, Citroen DS3 WRC, + 16.8 sec
3) Petter Solberg, Norway, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 18.6
4) Mads Østberg, Norway, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 32.3
5) Evgeny Novikov, Russia, Ford Fiesta RSWRC, + 1.21,2
6) Henning Solberg, Norway, Ford Fiesra RS WRC, + 1.48,5
7) Sebastien Loeb, France, Citroen DS3 WRC, + 2.08,9
8) Sandell, Sweden, the Mini John Cooper Works WRC, + 2.18,8
9) Martin Prokop, Czech Republic, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 2.26,9
10) Eyvind Brynildsen, Norway, the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, + 2.59,8