While the 1st leg of Rally Sweden had all the excitement of the new cars and teams taking to the stages proper for the first time, the second leg would be business as usual. Mads Ostberg was the surprise of the first day, how much time would he lose and how far could Mikko stretch the lead? We found out the answer to those questions in what was one amazing day on the stages.
Mikko Hirvonen would move quickly to take the lead from Day 1 leader Mads Ostberg. As Mads would be first on the road, the snow plowing duties were all for him. Hirvonen would seize the advantage and put his Abu-Dhabi Ford in the lead. The flying Finn would hit an issue however on SS13, spinning the car and all but erasing the gap he had created. Regardless, Mikko will go into the final day with the rally lead of just 7.5secs. The gap ideally needed to be around 25secs for a comfortable final day.
Mads Ostberg would hang in and put together a solid drive for the second day. There were concerns the Norwegian driver would fall down the order given his first on the road status, but rather the opposite seemed to happen. Ostberg would lose only the 7.5secs after Mikko’s spin and actually position himself with a chance to win the rally. He will be second on the road tomorrow and if conditions are as they have been, then the snow duties will go to Mikko. Ostberg has really put himself in a position here to have great success and a brilliant chance at overall victory tomorrow.
Another solid performance by Petter Solberg as he closed the gap to the top two. A rather eventless day for the 2003 WRC champion has seen him crawl to within 9.9sec of Mikko Hirvonen. Petter very well could be leading the rally, but a 10sec penalty was issued after he was late to a time control. That penalty is being disputed at the moment and we will see if it is reversed. Petter claims there was traffic blocking his route to the time control and that there was nothing he could do. Regardless, he is the top placed Citroen and does still have a very good shot at winning the rally if he can keep his pace and rhythm.
Jari-Matti Latvala would have a terrible day on the stages. The Ford pilot would have a hard time in the morning stages as he struggled to find a good pace and rhythm. However, after the lunch break, Latvala found his pace and was very fast. Taking chunks of time out the gap and positioning himself for a run at victory tomorrow. Ford opted to use some tactics here that will really set them up to finish well. At the end of the final stage, JML would slow down to provide himself better road position. This was an Abu-Dhabi Ford decision and one that JML was rather unhappy with. He was seen smashing the steering wheel in his car as he crossed the line. However, with Hirvonen out front, they have the rally lead and a good chance to keep it if the conditions are better given his pace. With JML sitting in 4th, this gives them a chance to still win the rally, even if it costs Mikko. JML’s pace has proven more than enough to seize the lead and hold it for victory tomorrow. A very smart tactical move by Ford.
Sebastian Ogier is in the 5th position and put on an absolute clinic on the stages. The Citroen team would take four stage wins and young Ogier would claim one of those victories. Currently 14.8sec off of the lead, Ogier is just as much in the fight as anyone else. Ogier has adopted a cautious approach to thefinal day and has admitted the season is long and that pushing for a victory in Sweden would not necessarily be worth it in the long run. It also adds an interesting dynamic to our podcast predictions as all of the 1st place picks have a great shot at winning the rally.
So we head into the final day of the rally with five drivers all very much alive with a shot at taking home glory. This is exactly how the WRC must have wanted the first round to go as the new machines were on display and a new era began. Excitement heading into the final round of the rally and it is all still any body’s game to win. Keep it here tomorrow for final day coverage and thoughts on Rally Sweden in the Sunday Service Park.
Day 2 Final Standings:
1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 2h33m16.2s
2. Mads Ostberg Ford + 7.5s
3. Petter Solberg Citroen + 9.9s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 11.8s
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 14.8s
6. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 1m41.5s
7. Kimi Raikkonen Ford + 5m03.0s
8. P-G Andersson Ford + 5m31.0s
9. Patrik Sandell Skoda + 7m41.5s
10. Matthew Wilson Ford + 7m41.9s