Grondal called on his home fans to cheer him on through tomorrow’s Norwegian stages as he attempts to repel the Saudi Arabian driver, who reduced a 32.6sec deficit to just 4.5sec as the second leg ended in Hagfors.
“I’m extremely happy with what we’ve done today,” said Grondal. “I’m doing the best I can and I feel like I’m getting everything out of the car so I have to be happy.
“Tomorrow I’ll be in Norway, so maybe I’ll know the roads a little better. I’m going to push like hell and I hope everyone will be out on the stages with Norwegian flags to help us,” he added.
Al Rajhi won six of Saturday’s eight stages in a Ford Fiesta RRC, making the most of his car’s weight advantage against Grondal’s ageing and less nimble Group N Subaru Impreza.
Al Rajhi brought the gap down to 0.3sec after the penultimate Rammen stage, but Grondal clawed precious seconds back through the final test on the edge of Hagfors.
“I couldn’t beat him here because I think I lost all the studs in my back tyres. I spin a lot, I slide a lot, so no chance. I try to push tomorrow and see what’s going on,” said Al Rajhi.
Championship leader Sepp Wiegand is third in a Skoda Fabia S2000, 2min 55.2sec behind Al Rajhi: “The second loop especially was much, much better. We found a good rhythm. We tried something with the set up and it was also better. There was a little bit more grip on the clean line so we were able to push a bit more,” explained the German.
Fourth is Ukraine’s Yuriy Protasov in a Subaru Impreza, a distant 3min 44.8sec behind Wiegand. Nicolas Fuchs rounds off the top five in a Mitsubishi Lancer.