Mads Østberg was fastest in Thursday morning’s shakedown at Rally Sweden after edging Craig Breen by a tenth of a second.
The Norwegian, driving his OneBet-backed Ford Fiesta WRC for the first time after missing the season-opening Rally Monte-Carlo, went quickest on his third and final run through the 6.86km Skalla special stage close to the Torsby service park.
“I have a lot of experience of snow and I’ll try to take advantage of that,” said Østberg, for whom this is his 11th Sweden start.
“My start position is good as well so if I can use everything to my advantage that’s my only hope. The other guys have more experience than me of the new car.
“Everything is new, the car, the team, everything. It’s crazy to drive this car, just fantastic. The speed we’re able to build between the corners is amazing, especially when you find some grip.
“I’m smiling but trying to hold back a little because it’s easy to do small mistakes. It’s a new way of driving,” added Østberg, whose M-Sport-entered car is run by Adapta Motorsport.
Dani Sordo set the pace initially in his Hyundai i20 Coupe before team-mate Hayden Paddon moved to the front. Breen then went quickest in his final pass before Østberg’s fastest time brought the warm-up to a close for the leading drivers.
Kiwi Paddon was 0.4sec behind Breen, making his first appearance in Citroën’s C3 World Rally Car after driving a 2016 DS 3 in Monte-Carlo. Kris Meeke was a further tenth of a second behind with Sordo and Neuville completing the top six.
Many drivers opted to use shakedown purely as a systems check, preferring to save their limited stock of studded winter tyres for the rally itself. Monte-Carlo winner Sébastien Ogier was one, the Frenchman only 17th in his Fiesta WRC.
The leading times were:
|1.||Mads Østberg||Ford Fiesta||4min 11.6sec|
|2.||Craig Breen||Citroën C3||4min 11.7sec|
|3.||Haydon Paddon||Hyundai i20||4min 12.1sec|
|4.||Kris Meeke||Citroën C3||4min 12.2sec|
|5.||Dani Sordo||Hyundai i20||4min 14.0sec|
|6.||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai i20||4min 14.5sec|
|7.||Elfyn Evans||Ford Fiesta||4min 15.1sec|
|8.||Stéphane Lefebvre||Citroën DS 3||4min 16.1sec|
|8=||Ott Tänak||Ford Fiesta||4min 16.1sec|
|10.||Jari-Matti Latvala||Toyota Yaris||4min 16.2sec|