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:
Overnight leader Sebastien Ogier began Saturday’s competition in dominant form with a fastest time on the opening Sagen test. But the stage proved disastrous for lead Swede Pontus Tidemand who retired almost within sight of the flying finish.
Tackling today’s stages from 17th in the running order, Polo R driver Ogier completed the 14km stage 2.1sec faster than Sebastien Loeb in a Citroen DS3. Mads Ostberg was third in a Ford Fiesta RS, 3.5sec slower than Ogier.
“It’s good to start the day like that,” said Ogier. “No mistakes. The car is just perfect and I get a lot of pleasure to drive it. The package is good but there is a long way to go so we have to keep the concentration.”
In contrast to Friday’s twisty, technical forest stages, Saturday began on a wide, flowing smooth road. There had been some fresh snow overnight but drivers enjoyed consistent grip throughout. The temperature was a chilly -10c degrees.
“The road conditions were really good and I think I drove well,” said Loeb. “I tried to push so the gap to Ogier shouldn’t be so big.”
Ostberg said his start position of 14th on the road was perfect. “There was quite a lot of loose snow so I stayed in the swept line all the time. For me that’s the fastest way.”
Tidemand, 22, was sixth overnight after impressing on his debut in a World Rally Car. However on SS9 the Swede’s Ford Fiesta RS developed a serious engine problem and he was forced to park by the roadside 1km from the finish line.
Matthew Wilson was another Sagen retirement, the Brit rolling his Ford Fiesta RS 10km from the start.