A classic Sweden test, and one of the fastest of the rally, Vargasen starts on a narrow and twisty road but later becomes wider and more flowing. Vargasen is most famous for ‘Colin’s Crest’ – a huge blind crest 12.8 km from the start. Ken Block holds the record for the longest jump, clearing 37 metres in 2011.
How the action unfolded:
Mads Ostberg recovered from his early morning problems to post fastest time through the final stage of the morning loop. The Norwegian was quickest by just a tenth of a second in a Ford Fiesta RS from Sebastien Ogier, with Jari-Matti Latvala 1.6sec slower in third.
But as cars headed back to Hagfors for service, it was Ogier at the top of the leaderboard in a Volkswagen Polo R. The Frenchman has a 10.1sec advantage over Sebastien Loeb’s Citroen DS3, with Latvala’s Polo R just 0.8sec back in third.
Ostberg’s overheating woes continued to bother the Norwegian, but didn’t slow him. “The alarm was on and that was annoying and disturbing. I tried to push but the alarm came on and put me out of focus. I couldn’t drive at 100 per cent. It’s trouble for me because I’ve lost too much time,” he said.
He is sixth overall, 40.0sec from the lead, but Qatar M-Sport team boss Malcolm Wilson refused to accept that Ostberg’s chances were gone. “His pace has been incredible given the problem. It’s not all over yet!” he stated.
Ogier, too, was having to compensate for car issues. “I still have a problem with shifting,” he explained. “It’s OK but I have to use the clutch, especially in low gear.”
Loeb and Latvala were engrossed in a tight battle for second overall. Latvala was 2.4 faster than his rival through the stage and is now breathing down his neck.
Loeb was perplexed as where he lost time in one specific split section of the stage. “I didn’t make any mistakes, so maybe it just wasn’t good driving. It’s hard to find a good rhythm and stay on the road,” he said.
Perhaps the star of the morning has been Pontus Tidemand. The 22-year-old Swede was seventh on the stage in a Fiesta RS, but lies fourth overall on his debut in a World Rally Car. His secret? “A good rhythm and no mistakes,” he said.
Fastest time from Norwegian Anders Grondal moved him into the lead of the WRC 2 category. The Subaru Impreza driver headed to service with a 10 second advantage over Fiesta RRC driver Yazeed Al Rajhi, who damaged a wheel near the finish.
Championship leader Sepp Wiegand is third in a Skoda S2000 but under increasing pressure from a resurgent Eyvind Brynildsen. Brynildsen, who picked up a 1m40s penalty earlier, won two of the morning’s stages but had a lucky escape on the third.
“I made a mistake just after Colin’s Crest, and spun flat out in sixth gear,” the Fiesta driver explained. “There was snow everywhere and when we stopped we were in the middle of the road pointing the wrong way. Okay, it’s made the job a bit more difficult but I’ve already got back one minute. Maybe the karma has changed now!”