Saudi Arabian Yazeed Al Rajhi has extended his WRC 2 lead of Rally Sweden and will take a cushion of almost 1m30s into Saturday’s final leg.
Apart from slowing to avoid Robert Kubica’s stricken car on SS8, the Ford Fiesta RRC driver had a troublefree run in thawing conditions that caused problems for many of his rivals.
“It’s been another good day, but difficult too,” said Al Rajhi, who is on course to repeat his Swedish win of 2013. “There was a lot to contend with, like the strange weather and tyre wear, but we made a good push, we are in good spirits and we enjoy it.”
Jari Ketomaa in a Fiesta R5 remains Al Rajhi’s closest rival and began the day with a terrific time through the snowy Lesjofors (SS8) that got him within 14 seconds of the lead. But the Finn’s challenge faded as the amount of gravel on the roads exposed the shortcomings of his DMACK tyres and he rounded off the day 1m29.8sec adrift.
“The first stage was completely ice and snow and everything was perfect, but when it comes to gravel the tyres heat up so much I just can’t do anything,” he explained. “These conditions are not quite what we tested for in Finland, but I have to drive with what I have now. It’s okay though; we know why we are not fastest.”
Sweden’s Fredrik Ahlin was third all morning but was unable to keep a resurgent Karl Kruuda behind in the afternoon, eventually losing the position to him on SS13. The Estonian is now back in a podium position, 48.4sec behind Ketomaa, after dropping back with transmission problems on Thursday.
Ahlin ended the day fourth, 33.5sec further back, with Yurii Protasov a close fifth having overcome damaged suspension on SS8. Lorenzo Bertelli is sixth after an incident-packed day in his Fiesta R5.
Local driver Anders Grondal retired from fourth when the engine in his Subaru Impreza expired. Valeriy Gorban, Gianluca Linari and Jourdan Serderidis complete the WRC 2 runners.