Saturday | 08 Feb 2014

Rally Sweden Saturday update #5

As the fight for victory at Rally Sweden enters the final few stages, we round-up the major news stories from the day.

SS23: Ogier v Solberg

World champion Sebastien Ogier finally edged ahead of Henning Solberg for sixth in the penultimate 24.63km Vargåsen stage, but the battle will go down to the final test as the gap between the pair is just one-tenth of a second.

But Henning is not giving up on sixth just yet. “Ogier is faster so I have to respect that, but everything can happen in the Power Stage,” said Solberg.

Thierry Neuville had a late scare after puncturing a front tyre on his Hyundai i20. The Belgian stopped early in the test to replace it and rejoined the action just behind Yazeed Al Rajhi after losing 2min 30sec.

Talking of Al Rajhi, his efforts to catch Jari Ketomaa and regain the WRC 2 lead appear to have ended in tears. The Saudi Arabian driver rolled his Fiesta RRC just after Colin’s Crest and dropped two minutes to his rival. So having lost the lead in the previous stage, he’s now down to third after also slipping behind Karl Kruuda.

SS22: Prokop in the snow

Martin Prokop

Martin Prokop is the latest victim of the snowbanks which have trapped so many drivers during Rally Sweden.

The Czech driver went off the road 13.30km into the 19.26km Torntorp test and his Ford Fiesta RS became firmly stuck in the snow. It’s the second time he has visited the white stuff, having also gone off in Thursday’s opening stage.

Following drivers reported that the location where they left the road was remote and there were no spectators around to help. Co-driver Jan Tomanek is standing alongside the road warning following crews about the stranded car while Prokop is furiously shovelling snow.

All to no avail at the moment.......

Meanwhile Yazeed Al Rajhi has lost the lead of the WRC 2 support category. The Saudi Arabian driver spun his Ford Fiesta RRC and became stuck in the snow. He dropped more than a minute and Finn Jari Ketomaa now leads by 1.1sec with two stages remaining.

SS20: Kubica goes off

Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica’s difficult Rally Sweden took another turn for the worse when he slid into a ditch early in the 15.87km Värmullsåsen test.

With the live TV cameras focused on the Pole as he opened the stage, Kubica drifted wide in a left corner and his Fiesta RS came to a halt in the snow. Spectators came to the rescue, manhandling the car back on the road with the loss of four minutes.

“We just understeered into the corner. The pace note was wrong. The car’s OK, we just need a new windscreen,” said Kubica, whose Fiesta also suffered front end damage.

SS18: Mikkelsen in trouble

Andreas Mikkelsen’s hopes of a maiden WRC victory at Rally Sweden appear to be over after the Norwegian went off the road into a snowbank.

Mikkelsen was in pursuit of leader Jari-Matti Latvala when he buried the front of his Volkswagen Polo R into the snow near the end of the 19.26km Torntorp stage. He lost 25.7sec to his team-mate and the Finn’s advantage at the top of the leaderboard is now 33.7sec.

Mikkelsen was too pre-occupied to comment but co-driver Mikko Markkula confirmed that he didn’t think there would be any serious issues as he scooped handfuls of snow from the radiator intake.

Also in the snow was Kris Meeke. “The front of the car got sucked into a snow bank. My inside wheels pulled us in. There were very few spectators, eventually we dug it out,” explained the Northern Ireland driver who lost seven minutes and dropped to 14th.

SS17: Latvala reaches 300

Leader Jari-Matti Latvala was fastest out of the blocks in the 11.32km Hara test this morning to win the opening test and take his 300th WRC stage win. In doing so, he stretched his advantage at the head of the leaderboard to 7.5sec over team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen.

But it wasn’t all plain-sailing for the Finn. Mikkelsen was fastest at the mid-stage split by almost a second and Latvala had to turn up the gas in the second half to overturn the deficit and complete 3.9sec ahead of Mikkelsen – his 36th stage victory for Volkswagen.

“It was a bit stressful when we heard the split time,” admitted Latvala.

Elsewhere, Henning Solberg maintained his upward progress by moving ahead of Pontus Tidemand into seventh. His next target is Kris Meeke and the gap between the duo is only 8.4sec.