Thursday | 18 Feb 2016

Sweden driver report: part 2

We look at how the leading drivers coped with winter in the second part of our summary.

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) Result: 14th
The Belgian looked good in third until a rear differential went bang on Friday’s third stage. With no service available until the end of the day, he lost six minutes driving in two-wheel drive and that was pretty much it in terms of a result. Brought the i20 home safely to net manufacturers’ points for Hyundai, but his motivation was understandably at a low ebb.

Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R) Result: 1st
Ogier needed everything he had, and a couple of big slices of luck, to take one of his best wins. He opened the road for all but one stage and that was a big handicap on Saturday’s fresh snow. He was on the limit the whole way and speared into the Norwegian trees after aquaplaning on Friday, before a truly scary sixth gear, 185kph moment in a Vargåsen right-hander that is an early contender for save of the season. Awesome on all counts.

Ott Tänak (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: 5th
The Estonian kept it clean and tidy all the way to secure an excellent fifth place and DMACK’s best result on snow. An error-free rally was a necessity after roofing his Fiesta RS in Monte-Carlo and sixth in the drivers’ points represents a highly satisfactory start to the 2016 campaign.

Mads Østberg (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: 3rd
Targeted a podium and delivered. It was Østberg’s first rally on the loose since renewing acquaintances with the Fiesta RS and it took a few stages to rekindle their friendship. But he climbed into third heading back into Sweden on Friday afternoon and it was fairly comfortable from there on, apart from a brief dalliance with a ditch on Saturday morning. He can be delighted with third in the standings after two rounds.

Yazeed Al Rajhi (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: Retired
Sweden was Al Rajhi’s first WRC event in a World Rally Car and a steep learning curve for the Saudi Arabian, who is more accustomed to driving a Regional Rally Car. He spent the initial stages acclimatising to the upgrade and had just entered the top 20 when he hit a rock and broke the suspension on Saturday afternoon. With just one stage in Sunday’s final leg, he elected not to restart under Rally 2 rules.

Kris Meeke (DS 3) Result: 23rd
Meeke has taken plenty of criticism for making mistakes when in promising positions over the last few seasons. But, for the second rally in a row, he was blameless when a rock on the driving line took a dislike to his DS 3’s suspension and ended Friday somewhat earlier than he would have liked. He was second at the time and his road position for Saturday would have been perfect for mounting a challenge to Sébastien Ogier…..

Henning Solberg (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: 7th
As ever, Solberg deserves top marks for entertainment value. It was 12 months since his last drive and he had no pre-event test, but the Norwegian simply jumped behind the wheel and drove in the only way he knows – flat out. Pure enjoyment oozes from Henning and his end of stage radio interviews are comedy gold. Now he needs to charm M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson to put together a deal for future outings. Come on, Malcolm……

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