Al Rajhi, driving a Ford Fiesta RRC, had closed on the WRC 2 lead throughout Saturday’s competition and finally got past Grondal on Sunday’s opening stage.
The Saudi, co-driven by Michael Orr, went on to win five of the final day’s six stages, pulling further ahead of Grondal to finish with a healthy margin of 43.5sec. The result moves him third in the championship on a total of 25 points.
“It was a difficult race but I’m delighted because I had only done one snow rally before this one, so I didn't have a lot of experience,” said Al Rajhi.
“It’s a good result for me, the team, and my co-driver. And of course a great start to my WRC 2 campaign. I’ve learned a lot and I hope to make more improvements step-by-step as the season goes on,” he added.
Long-time class leader Grondal put up a valiant fight in his older and heavier Group N Subaru Impreza but had no answer to Yazeed’s pace on Sunday. “I’m still satisfied because I think I’ve done the best I can,” said the Norwegian. “This is the fastest I can go in this car, so I’m happy with the set-up, the team and everything. I won Group N, so I’m happy.”
Skoda Fabia S2000 driver Sepp Wiegand was third, 3min 21.6sec behind Grondal. The German, who won the opening round in Monte-Carlo, leads the WRC 2 Championship on a total of 40 points and was satisfied with his performance in the specialist conditions.
“I need more experience on the ice and snow so being honest we had no chance for first or second,” he said. “We found a good speed and it made no sense to push because we needed to stay on the road and think about the points. We learned a lot and I’m happy with what we achieved. It’s a good result for our championship.”
Almost five minutes behind Wiegand was Yuriy Protasov, who secured fourth in a Subaru Impreza. The Ukrainian driver lies second in the WRC 2 standings.
Nicolas Fuchs rounded off the top five in his Mitsubishi Lancer, the Peruvian almost six minutes adrift of Protasov.
"I’m delighted because I had only done one snow rally before this one"