The 2011 season got started with one of the craziest rallies in recent memory! Way to usher in a new era for the Fiesta and DS3. The previous two days of the rally were unpredictable except for one point. Whoever was first on the road usually lost time due to fresh snow. Mikko Hirvonen was to be first on the road this morning and he would prove that to be false as he set some blistering times in the mornings stages on what was really nothing more than fresh ice. Hirvonen would take three stage wins during the opening loop of stages and extend his rally lead. It was a good thing he did, because the afternoon loop of stages saw Hirvonen losing time due to the ruts and grooves cut by the morning runs. However, Mikko Hirvonen was able to hold off a charging Mads Ostberg for his second straight Rally Sweden victory and an early lead in the championship.
Performance of the weekend goes to Mads Ostberg who finished second. The Norweigan had no more than 50 kilometers of testing in the new Fiesta before obtaining his best career result. A great result for the M-Sport Stobart team as Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson struggled under the same flag. The thing that was most impressive about Ostberg was how tidy a rally he drove. No major mistakes and a smooth rhythm and pace presented him a chance at a great finish. He was able to seize his moment and make it pay off.
Rounding out the podium was Abu Dhabi Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala. JML was a good pick to win the rally heading into the third day, but as the road conditions were far better than anyone predicted, he was left bleeding time in the morning loop. A spin on the first stage of the day seen his bumper and spoiler torn off and a loss of 20secs. Regardless, the Finn was able to battle back onto the podium and claim a 1-2-3 lock out of the podium for the new Ford Fiesta WRC.
Sebastien Ogier would finish a step off the podium after impacting a snowbank and filling his intake system with snow. The French driver was impressive all weekend compared to his team ace Sebastien Loeb. Off setting his lack of podium, was his victory in the power stage. The live televised power stage awarded Ogier points for being quickest. Those points will help as he admits the season is very long. Speaking of the other Sebastien, Loeb had a terrible opening day in Sweden that seen to it that he was not a factor on the final day. A poor showing for Citroen and their new DS3, but a blow the team did see coming. They will look to rebound during the next round in Mexico.
Petter Solberg would have a weird weekend in Sweden. While we reported constant solid drives that kept him alive for victory, there was one thing that no one really seen coming and ultimately cost him any chance at a reasonable finish. The Swedish police had booked Solberg earlier in the event for driving to fast in transit to the stage. Due to the law, Solberg ran out of time and had to turn his driving role over to co-driver Chris Patterson for the final transit and power stage. This may be one of the more bizzare things I have seen take place during a rally. The blunder would slot Petter in to 5th position for the weekend.
American Ken Block would finish 14th overall in the standings after his first snow rally outside of the US and his first time on the studded snow tires.
Round 2 of the WRC will be the Corona Rally Mexico. Citroen will surely rebound from their troubles and put together a strong performance. The true story will be if Mikko Hirvonen can carry this momentum into Mexico and capitalize. After winning Sweden last year, Hirvonen would not be a factor again and expirience his worst season yet. Keep it here as we will have all the latest news leading up to the only American round of the WRC.
Final Top 10 Standings:
1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 3h23m56.6s
2. Mads Ostberg Ford + 6.5s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 34.0s
4. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 47.7s
5. Petter Solberg Citroen + 1m31.2s
6. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 2m30.3s
7. P-G Andersson Ford + 6m22.0s
8. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen + 7m02.3s
9. Matthew Wilson Ford + 10m11.5s
10. Khalid Al Qassimi Ford + 10m31.1s