Jari-Matti Latvala was the early leader of Rally Sweden after outgunning Sébastien Ogier in the headline heat at Thursday night’s opening speed test in Karlstad.
Stage info: SS1
SSS Karlstad 1, 1.90km
Sweeping bends, a spectacular jump and a great atmosphere are the hallmarks of Karlstad’s horse trotting track. Drivers tackle two laps of the test in head-to-head duels.
The Finn, driving a Toyota Yaris, stopped the clock 0.9sec quicker than Rally Monte-Carlo winner Ogier in their head-to-head duel around the 1.90km special stage at the town’s trotting track.
Ogier’s time in a Ford Fiesta put him in fifth, as less than a second covered the leading five drivers over the sweeping bends of the ice-covered track.
Asked if everything was great, Latvala answered: “Everything is more than great, now I just need to hold the horses. I’ll just try to get a good rhythm tomorrow, that’s the important thing.”
The Finn, who finished second in Monte-Carlo, was 0.6sec clear of Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 Coupe. The Belgian edged out Ott Tänak by 0.2sec in their heat, but Neuville wasn’t satisfied with his evening’s work.
“I used my shakedown tyres, which are not so nice but good enough to do the stage,” he said. “It wasn’t a perfect stage, but good enough. I wasn’t so happy with the balance. It’s quite tricky out there, I planned to do better than that.”
Sandwiched between Neuville and Tänak’s Fiesta in the standings was Dani Sordo, who beat Craig Breen. Rounding off the top six was Mads Østberg, quickest in this morning’s shakedown, who defeated Kris Meeke’s Citroën C3.
Nobody encountered major problems, although Hayden Paddon brushed a tyre barrier en route to 11th fastest.
Most of tomorrow’s action is in Norway. Two identical loops of three stages include the cross-border Röjden which starts and finishes in Sweden, with the middle section in its neighbouring country. Just the final Torsby test runs entirely in Sweden. The seven stages cover 145.65km.