Pontus Tidemand was the surprise winner of tonight’s opening special stage of Rally Sweden in Karlstad.
Stage info: SS1
SSS Karlstad 1, 1.90km
Sweeping bends, a spectacular jump and a great atmosphere are the hallmarks of the curtain-raiser at Karlstad’s horse trotting track. Drivers tackled two laps of the ice-covered test in head-to-head duels.
The Swede, driving a Ford Fiesta RRC, outpaced all the favoured World Rally Car drivers to win the short ice-covered test around the town’s Färjestadstravet horse trotting track.
Tidemand enjoyed the best of the conditions in the night’s opening heat, as two cars at a time raced around the track, to top the standings by 0.3sec.
“I enjoyed that, I always do,” said the 2013 JWRC champion. “It feels quite good and there are lots of fans here. It’s perfect.”
Conditions at the stage start deteriorated with every pairing as drivers struggled to gain traction when the lights turned green.
Mads Østberg didn’t let that deter him as he defeated Sébastien Ogier in the night’s headline heat to claim second fastest time in Citroen’s DS 3, 0.3sec behind Tidemand.
Jari-Matti Latvala beat Kris Meeke to claim third in a Volkswagen Polo R, a tenth of a second behind Østberg, and Thierry Neuville was fourth in a Hyundai i20. Andreas Mikkelsen overcame a brush with a snow bank to take fifth, 0.7sec from the lead.
This second round of the FIA World Rally Championship continues tomorrow with nine more stages in Sweden and Norway, including a second pass around the Karlstad test, covering 124.54km.
• All tonight’s action can be watched as live on the WRC+ digital platform at www.wrcplus.com.