Mads Ostberg has completed the opening day of Rally Sweden with a lead of 14.8s in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Ostberg, a regular in the World Rally Championship since 2007, has impressed throughout the day, setting three fastest stage times in the process with co-driver Jonas Andersson.

Initially, Ostberg benefited from his lowly road position as heavy overnight snow meant drivers running at the head of the field were creating a cleaner line for those behind. However, he underlined his pace by going fastest on the day’s first repeated stage, Vargasen.

The 23-year-old’s margin out front would have been greater had it not been for his car’s lightpod becoming detached on the day-closing Lovhaugen stage, which crossed the border into his native Norway.

“I’m very happy to be leading but very early in the last stage there was a big dip and the lightpod came off,” said Ostberg. “It’s been a nightmare because there were no lights. I tried to push but I couldn’t see a thing. It’s been a good day, I am disappointed with this problem although it’s far more than I expected. I needed to have a bigger lead for tomorrow being first on the road so now I must go on maximum attack - that is all I can do.”

Mikko Hirvonen is second overnight in his Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Fiesta and is in a strong position to challenge for his second victory in Sweden in as many years. The Finn has enjoyed an incident-free day and his performance pleased Ford team chief Malcolm Wilson: “Mikko has done a fantastic job, he really has,” said Wilson. “It’s great to see him happy and confident.”

Third-placed Petter Solberg received a 10-second penalty for leaving midday service late while his mechanics rushed to make adjustments to the rear of his Citroen DS3 WRC. He also suffered a minor off and struggled when his car’s windscreen began to mist up. “I have to be happy with this because I only know this car 80 per cent and I was not taking any crazy risks.”

Jari-Matti Latvala said it had taken him much of the day to find a good rhythm in his works Fiesta. After surviving a brush with a snow bank and a high-speed spin in the afternoon, the Finn holds fourth overnight, 1m10s adrift of first place.

Henning Solberg would have been closer to Latvala in the overall standings had it not been for a 10-second penalty for jumping the start on stage six. He begins day two 1.3s up on Citroen Total World Rally Team ace Sebastien Ogier who is taking part on Rally Sweden for only a second time.

Patrik Sandell is the highest-placed Swedish driver in his Skoda Fabia Super 2000 in seventh, 8.4s up on fellow Skoda pilot Eyvind Brynildsen from Norway, who reported his car dropping onto three cylinders on stage seven, to the extent he fears he might not be able to go much further on the event.

World champion Sebastien Loeb is a distant ninth overall in his Citroen DS3 WRC. After losing chunks of time running first on the road in the morning, Loeb then dropped more than a minute with a puncture on stage seven.

Khalid Al Qassimi completes the top 10 in his Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta with Kimi Raikkonen 1.3s further back after dropping vital time with a front-left puncture on stage six.

PG Andersson, who won Thursday night’s superspecial stage only to tip his Fiesta RS WRC onto its side glancing a snow bank on Friday’s opening test before slipping further back with a puncture, completed day one in a despondent 12th overall.

Production Car World Championship aces Anders Grondal and Patrik Flodin are 13th and 14th respectively in their Group N Subaru Impreza WRX STis. Matthew Wilson is 15th after his mechanics replaced his Fiesta’s steering rack and pump during midday service.

FERM World Rally Team’s Dennis Kuipers recovered from a turbo boost problem to hold 17th, one place ahead of Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block, who achieved a leap of 39 metres over Colin’s Crest on the Vargasen stage.


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