Not only is the Swede leading the Production Car World Rally Championship section in his Subaru Impreza, but he is also poised to move to the top of the title standings if he stays in front throughout Sunday’s stages.
With 25 points heading his way, Flodin will climb above current leader and defending champion Armindo Araujo, who hasn’t nominated the Sapporo-based contest as one of his six scoring rounds.
“I’ve been in safe mode all day because I know I have to win this rally if I am to win the title,” said the Uspenskiy Rally Team driver. “It’s not fun driving like this and it is not easy because even though you want to be fast you have no reason to be. It’s been a very great day with no mistakes but I must keep doing what I am doing and avoid having any dramas because it’s going to be another difficult day tomorrow.”
Hayden Paddon remains in second place in his Team Green-run Mitsubishi Lancer although the gap to Flodin was widened when the New Zealander’s right-rear brake caliper broke eight kilometres from the finish of the first run through the 33.76-kilometre Kamuycep stage on Saturday morning.
“It was caused by hitting all the rocks,” said Paddon’s co-driver John Kennard. “Hayden’s brake pedal went to the floor after that and we had no brakes at all for the rest of the stage. The car set-up was more to my liking today but it’s still very slippery under the trees.”
Running repairs prior to stage 13, Kina, enabled the pair to complete the morning loop largely unscathed although the 90 seconds dropped on Kamuycep means Paddon’s gap to Flodin stands at more than three minutes heading into the final day.
Brazilian Paulo Nobre started day two in third place but slipped back to fifth when his Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Lancer suffered a damaged tyre on stage 12. However, he remains embroiled in a three-way scrap for the last podium spot with third-placed Michel Jourdain and Italian veteran Gianluca Linari, who currently occupies fourth spot 19.2s behind Jourdain but 18.1s ahead of Nobre.
Linari said it had been taking him time to adapt to the Impreza he is using for the first time.
It was ex-Champ Car single-seater racer Jourdain who benefited the most from Nobre’s woes to move into a career-best third place, despite fearing that his showroom-specification Lancer wouldn’t make it through the rough stages. “It was so rough today,” said the Mexican. “I was just waiting for the next surprise on every corner to be honest because of the condition of the roads. Tomorrow is going to be tough again.”
Local driver Kyosuke Kamata, who is using Anders Grondal’s entry, is fifth in a Lancer with Chinese Rui Wang next up in his Shanghai FCACA Rally Team Impreza.