09 Feb 08
The Production Car battle on the Swedish Rally reached boiling point in the forests around Hagfors this morning. Juho Hanninen was quickest on two of the three stages, closing the gap on leader Patrik Sandell to just 4.2 seconds.
Both drivers enjoyed a clean run, but Sandell admitted he was still learning about his Peugeot 207 S2000. Hanninen, on the other hand, predicted that he would pass Sandell through the shortened afternoon.
“I am quite confident,” said Hanninen. “The speed is good for me. I feel good in the car - like I did yesterday afternoon. There is still a long way to go in this rally and the conditions were difficult in places this morning, but they are the same for everybody.”
After dropping 7.1 seconds in the Horssjon test, Sandell hit back in Hagfors to grab 1.3 back, before the Mitsubishi driver took 3.9 seconds on the final action of the morning.
“There was some loose snow in some places,” said Sandell. “That cost me some time. When we get in those conditions, the wheels are just spinning. I need to talk to my engineer more. I don’t know if I am using the engine and the gearbox in the right way - there is still so much for me to find out about this car. When the road is twisty, it’s suiting my car better - this helped me in the middle stage. But when it’s fast, for sure, he is taking time out of me. I don’t know what to expect in the afternoon. Of course, I came here hoping for the win and to be in this position is nice against the fastest Group N drivers in the world. But what happens for the rest of the event, I don’t know.”
Jari Ketomaa remained in third place after an undramatic morning in his Subaru Impreza, while Martin Prokop moved into fourth spot after Andreas Aigner went off the road in SS10 after hitting a rock. The Red Bull Mitsubishi team’s misery was compounded when Aigner’s team-mate Bernardo Sousa also crashed in Hagfors, rolling the sister Lancer and dropping a minute and a half.
Uwe Nittel (Mitsubishi) and Toshi Arai (Subaru) moved into fifth and sixth respectively.