Sagen is another Swedish classic. Run on a big, wide main road all the way through, it’s fast and furious from the first metres. It’s littered with high-speed corners, full snow and ice with snow banks lining the stage for the drivers to lean on. Former world champion Marcus Gronholm loved this stage so much he named his restaurant in Finland after it!
How the action unfolded:
There was nothing to separate Rally Sweden’s top two drivers on the afternoon’s opening test, with Sebastien Ogier and his fellow Frenchman Sebastien Loeb setting exactly the same time through the 14km Sagen.
Citroen ace Loeb was the first of the pair to start, the DS3 driver determined to narrow the 25.2sec gap to his former team-mate ahead.
“I was pushing hard and made no mistakes but I think the guys behind are also pushing very hard,” said Loeb. “The set-up is better than yesterday for sure but the road position isn’t making it easy to push.”
Polo R driver Ogier was next through and happy to have kept his lead intact, despite a hiccup near the finish. “We were pushing hard and I made a small mistake at the end when I wasn’t clean enough,” he explained. “Up to that point I was a few tenths up on Loeb. But it’s okay, it’s enough like that.”
After the passage of the entire 42-car field, plus the classic rally entrants, the smooth snow surface of Sagen was more rutted for the repeat and there was plenty of stud-damaging gravel mixed in with the snow.
Resuming his fight with Jari-Matti Latvala for third, Ford Fiesta RS pilot Mads Ostberg adopted a cautious approach on the first of the afternoon’s four stages. “I took it quite steady because I want to take care of my tyres in here,” he said. “I drove according to Latvala’s splits and I think we controlled the pace well. We’ll try to push more on the next one.”
Latvala went on to set the third fastest time in his Polo R, just 0.3sec quicker than Ostberg: “I haven’t made up much time but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Latvala. “Maybe its time to concentrate on the driving and not think about it too much!”
Evgeny Novikov was fifth fastest with Juho Hanninen sixth - successfully fending off a challenge from a hard-charging Thierry Neuville behind.