Rally Sweden: Latvala stamps his authority
- 11th February 2012, 7:20am
Day one of Rally Sweden 2012 saw a frenetic lead battle and first position changing hands multiple times - but by the time the leg was done, Jari-Matti Latvala had managed to burst clear of the pack and established a 16.8-second cushion.
It looked highly unlikely that anyone would be able to pull out such an advantage as Latvala spent most of the day swapping tenths with former team-mate Mikko Hirvonen - the Ford and Citroen repeatedly exchanging the top spot. Mads Ostberg had also managed to lead for a spell in the Adapta Ford, while Petter Solberg (Ford) and Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) were in contention at times.
But as the day progressed, Latvala's challengers fell away one by one.
The biggest drama befell Loeb. The champion and current points leader made a shock mistake early on stage seven and lost two minutes extricating his Citroen from a snow bank. He has already surged back from 11th to seventh, but the podium looks a long way away.
Ostberg felt his set-up wasn't quite right for the stages that were more field than forest based, then in the afternoon he was perplexed by his relative lack of pace, and also had some brake worries. That meant he ended the day just over half a minute adrift in fourth.
Solberg spun down to fifth near the end of the morning, but a canny decision to save his fresh tyres for the latter stages of the afternoon loop - by which time most drivers were lacking studs in their rubber - saw him surge back into the hunt.
He ended the day 13.7s clear of Ostberg, and just 1.8s behind Hirvonen, who struggled badly with worn tyres on stage nine and saw Latvala charge into the distance.
Evgeny Novikov is again driving a quiet but impressive rally in fifth for M-Sport Ford. He had been closing on Dani Sordo before the MINI had to retire on stage eight.
The flying Loeb will start Saturday with Go Fast Energy Ford driver Henning Solberg next in his sights, the Norwegian having steadily moved up to sixth with a typically consistent performance.
Patrik Sandell's MINI, Martin Prokop's Czech National Ford and Eyvind Brynildsen's Adapta Ford complete the current top 10, the latter troubled by a differential problem on stage nine. Just outside the points-scorers, Volkswagen Motorsport duo Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen are edging ever closer to some giant-killing in their Super 2000 Skoda Fabias.
Running first on the road for most of the day has not helped Thierry Neuville's cause, but the Belgian has prioritised staying on the road and building his snow rally knowledge, meaning his Citroen Junior DS3 completed the day in 15th. Another man learning about both the DS3 and snow is Nasser Al-Attiyah, who runs 21st.
After the disaster of a long trip off the road on the very first stage of the morning, Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford) has had treat the rally as a test exercise, though he has inched back up to 29th place.
Leading positions after SS10: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford 1h23m50.8s 2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 16.8s 3. Petter Solberg Ford + 18.6s 4. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 32.3s 5. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford + 1m12.1s 6. Henning Solberg Go Fast Ford + 1m48.5s 7. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 2m08.9s 8. Patrik Sandell Mini + 2m18.8s 9. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 2m26.9s 10. Eyvind Brynildsen Adapta Ford + 2m59.8s
SUBSCRIBE BELOW TO READ THE FULL STORY
By clicking "Subscribe Now" you agree to receive news, offers and updates on RallySport Magazine. If you do not wish to receive marketing communications, you can update your preferences in My Account.
We will commence charging your payment method after the 7 day free trial expires. If you cancel after expiry of your trial, cancellation will take effect from the end of your current monthly subscription period. You will not be refunded any fees paid to RallySport Magazine unless otherwise set out in the terms and conditions.