Debrief part 1
Now that the snow has settled on a thrilling Rally Sweden, we take a look at the moments that mattered in the first of our two-part debrief.
One To Forget
Step forward Thierry Neuville. Except in the case of the unfortunate Belgian, it's more a story of 'two to forget'. Following calamity at Rallye Monte-Carlo, where he lost a comfortable lead on Saturday night, Neuville had another shocker in Sweden - in eerily similar circumstances. Having put in all the hard work, it's hard not to feel sympathetic after a fairly innocuous looking tap on the Super Special. Retirement was a heavy price to pay, certainly, but these head-to-head stages do have previous form for biting back; just ask Jari-Matti Latvala about Rally Poland 2009.
You’ll Never Believe It
Henning Solberg made his season debut in Sweden and was quickly back to his entertaining best. On reaching the end of Stage 11 he made an appeal for a new windscreen to replace the shattered one in his Skoda. Asked how he had fared at the giant Colin's Crest jump with limited visibility, Solberg replied. "I don't know - I couldn't see it." For the second pass Solberg had a new screen, having 'borrowed' it from the recce car of another competitor. The screen was complete with mountings for a rear-view mirror and a Europcar sticker.
Save of the Rally
Mads Østberg also got his season underway in Sweden and with it his first taste of competition in a 2017-spec Ford Fiesta World Rally Car. All was gong well until stage five when the car lost its rear spoiler at flat-chat in sixth gear. Østberg only noticed this when he hit a bump in the road and the spoiler-less rear kicked high into the air. Meanwhile the front end remained planted and was tipped so far forward that the splitter ploughed into the road. Østberg held his nerve and kept the car straight until the rear end landed and settled. Top marks for keeping cool.
By Saturday night, Ott Tänak had narrowed the gap to rally leader Latvala to just 3.8sec and his chances of stealing the lead on Sunday looked good. Latvala later admitted that even he thought he would lose the position. And then on Sunday's opener, Stage 16, the odds swung back in Latvala's favour after a massive push that stretched his advantage to 10.9s. Latvala said a pep talk from team boss Tommi Mäkinen had helped with the astonishing time that put Tänak's goal out of reach.
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