Citroen's Loeb holds second on leg one of Rally Sweden

Sebastien Loeb shows some snow sense in Rally Sweden's first day.

Citroen's Loeb holds second on leg one of Rally Sweden

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team

Photo by: XPB Images

Anyone hoping to end day one of Rally Sweden among the leaders certainly needed good turn of speed and some experience on these roads, but they probably needed a few acrobatic skills too! Lying in second position, half a minute behind the leader, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena made a strong start to this year’s event.

Rally Sweden got underway on Thursday evening with the traditional super special stage. After winning the Karlstad racecourse stage, even if it was only by half a second, Sébastien Loeb went to bed having grabbed the early overall lead.

Well before dawn, the competitors left the parc fermé to head for Hagfors, around a hundred kilometres to the north. After a service period, the drivers set off into the forests of Värmland for a three-stage loop.

Drama struck within a few kilometres of the start of Lesjöfors 1 (SS2). One of the leading contenders to win the rally, Mikko Hirvonen was the first to run into trouble. “It happened barely a kilometre after the start, in a section which wasn’t particularly difficult,” said Mikko. “The rear end lifted up and the car started to slide towards the verge, where what should have been a snow bank had been flattened by another car. We span before getting stuck in a snow bank. There weren’t any spectators at that point and so it took us a lot of time before we were able to get the car back onto the road.” Having lost 24 minutes, it’s now a very different-looking race for the Finn: “I’m now going to drive without taking any risks to try and pick up a few points for the Manufacturers’ championship. I’ll also try to score some points in the Power Stage.”

Third fastest on SS2, Sébastien Loeb confirmed how difficult the Swedish course was proving: “There is a fresh layer of snow which is swept off the line as the cars run through the stages. When we’re on the line, things go well. But as soon as the rear end drifts off the line a bit, the studs no longer bite into the ice and it becomes difficult to stay on the road. I still have to maintain an aggressive pace, otherwise I’ll end up going slow!”

Second overall at the day’s mid-way point, the nine-time World Champion was fighting with Jari- Matti Latvala, who moved ahead of him after Lesjöfors 2 (SS5). The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT driver kept pushing however, and he reclaimed second spot on Vargåsen 2 (SS7). Trailing the leader by half a minute, Seb was realistic in his appraisal: “I’m pushing but I can’t do much more about Sébastien Ogier. There’s no doubt that my starting position wasn’t so good today, but that doesn’t account for everything. For the time being, I’m not thinking about closing on the leader, I’m more focussed on defending my second place!”

Khalid Al Qassimi had a very tough time in his first rally in the DS3 WRC of the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT. “The day got off to a bad start, as we got stuck in a snow bank on SS2, when we hit the spot where Matthew Wilson went off,” recounted the Emirati driver. “And then I did it again – just me this time – on SS5. The conditions are really complicated this year. I’m struggling to find the right feeling and I still lack experience with the car.”

After going off on Värmullsåsen 2 (SS6), Dani Sordo added his name to the list of drivers caught out by the tricky Swedish course. The Spaniard slipped out of the top 10 as a result: “It was pretty much the same as everyone else, we lost the back end and we ended up stuck in a snow bank. Fortunately for us, there were a lot of spectators and we were able to get on our way again pretty easily. It really hasn’t been a straightforward day. I never found the right feeling with the car.”

“Obviously, things haven’t really worked out like we had hoped,” admitted Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Mikko fell out of contention very quickly, but that’s part and parcel of racing, taking risks when you’re going for the win. However, I’ take heart from Seb’s performance. There were just a few seconds between him and Latvala, who is undoubtedly one of the best on this surface. We still don’t know how much of a handicap our starting position was. It will be easier to compare tomorrow, as Seb will be running just before Sébastien Ogier.”

Citroen

shares
comments
Ogier places his Polo R in the lead in Sweden's leg one

Previous article

Ogier places his Polo R in the lead in Sweden's leg one

Next article

Qatar M-Sport team survives leg one of Rally Sweden

Qatar M-Sport team survives leg one of Rally Sweden
Load comments
Does Neuville have a point with his WRC Rally1 rant? Prime

Does Neuville have a point with his WRC Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How Rovanpera reached new heights in the Greek mountains Prime

How Rovanpera reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Prime

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Prime

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021
Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit? Prime

Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit?

OPINION: The Ypres Rally featured a cameo from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in its final stage, giving WRC teams the chance to experience its iconic corners in rallying machinery. It proved to be an engaging addition to the rally, and could perhaps serve as an example for other events to visit famous circuits

WRC
Aug 24, 2021
Home hero Neuville delivers overdue WRC success for Hyundai in Belgium Prime

Home hero Neuville delivers overdue WRC success for Hyundai in Belgium

With limited recent fortune and pressure starting to mount, Hyundai needed a big result at the Ypres Rally. All the key components came together in Belgium to see home hero Thierry Neuville lead a manufacturer 1-2 and kickstart its World Rally Championship challenge

WRC
Aug 16, 2021
The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree Prime

The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree

M-Sport has become the first to unveil its new-for-2022 hybrid World Rally Championship challenger, the Puma Rally1. Ford has upped its support in a bid for glory, but can the new machine roll back the years and return the Blue Oval to the top of the WRC tree?

WRC
Aug 12, 2021
The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies Prime

The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies

French drivers have dominated the World Rally Championship across the past two decades; Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier have racked up the titles in commanding fashion. With Ogier calling it a day on full-time WRC competition from next year, France will pin its long-term hopes on rookie Adrien Fourmaux, who looks to have a bright future.

WRC
Aug 7, 2021