Sunday 14 February 2016

Rally - Sweden Day 2

Snow, snow, grip,  grip ... NO! ... Overnight snowfall made for better conditions on day two of Rally Sweden. After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle were the quickest crew on the day’s combined stages. Craig Breen/Scott Martin continued to learn about the WRC as they kept the Abu Dhabi Total WRT DS3 in eighth position, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson moved up four places in the overall standings.

Contested on roads around Hagfors, the second leg of Rally Sweden featured five very familiar stages: Fredriksberg (SS10), two runs on Vargåsen (SS12/16), Rämmen (SS14) and the Karlstad super special stage (SS17). Thanks to the heavy overnight snowfall, drivers and spectators alike were able to enjoy considerably better conditions than they were expecting just a few days ago, when recce for this leg was largely held on gravel roads!

Meeke wasted no time in getting his confidence back. After warming up on SS10 (Fredriksberg), he set the second fastest time on SS12, producing an impressive performance on Colin’s Crest with a massive 43-metre jump! The Northern Irishman went second fastest again on SS14, before having to contend with a loose right-rear tyre on the day’s final long stage.

After a highly consistent performance on day one, Craig Breen continued with a series of top-ten times. Despite having to cope with the rapid deterioration of his studded tyres throughout the afternoon, the Irishman nonetheless managed to stay within two seconds of the experienced Henning Solberg before the super special stage. The gap slipped to 3.6s after the day’s final test, since he was forced to put his spare wheel back on – which had lost its studs.

At the finish Kris said: “We were able to pick up experience today and we had a lot of fun in the car. It’s also pleasing to note that we were the fastest overall on today’s combined stages. We clearly had a good starting position, but Jari-Matti Latvala was just behind us in the running order, so he was a good benchmark. It makes our retirement yesterday all the more frustrating!”

Craig added: “It’s been another good day for us, with some interesting stage times and splits. The conditions were different to yesterday so we had to learn how to manage them. We made good progress. We noticed that we had a puncture just before the start of the super special stage. Our spare tyre was already very worn, so we lost a bit of time there. It doesn’t matter too much.”

As for the rally leader, no surprises there, it's still Ogier in control: “We gave absolutely everything today, from the first metre to the last. We knew that we would lose a lot of time on some stages, as we had to open the route after the overnight snowfall, meaning we had to sweep the roads for those behind us. As we obviously wanted to take our lead into tomorrow, there was no time for tactics. Apart from one moment on the second pass of ‘Vargåsen’, we did not give a millimetre and had an almost perfect day.” Team mate Latvala had another setback with another puncture on the opening test of the day.

As for second place, what a show for the Hyundai team, with Haydon Paddon closing down the gap to the rally leader. He said: “We have to be happy with how today has gone and with our position at the end of this penultimate day. We made the most of our starting position this morning, with those running ahead of us helping to clean the road a bit. We just focused on our own thing and were able to close the gap." Dani Sordo had a puncture yesterday although Thierry Neuville was back on stage after Friday's differential troubles.

Just one more stage today will bring this year's Rally Sweden to a somewhat early conclusion. Held from 12.08pm onwards, Värmullsåsen (15.87km) will be contested as the Power Stage.

Leaderboard After Day 2:
1, Ogier / Ingrassia (VW Polo-R WRC) 1h52:04.7
2, Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +17.1
3, Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +42.3
4, Mikkelsen / Jaeger (VW Polo-R WRC) +1:07.4
5, Tanak / Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:31.6
6, Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:56.3
7, Solberg / Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +2:17.2
8, Breen / Martin (DS 3 WRC) +2:20.8
9, Evans / Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) +4:44.7
10, Tidemand / Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +5:02.6

... 24, Meeke / Nagle (DS 3 WRC) +13:47.

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