SS11 / SS12:
Østberg falls back

Mads Østberg hit problems in Saturday’s opening special stage at Rally Sweden when the third-placed Norwegian slammed his car into a snow bank near the finish of the test.

Stage info: SS11 / 12

SS11: Fredriksberg 1, 18.15km
This test is identical to last year. It starts on a wide road alongside Lake Skärsjön before turning into the forest and the final kilometres pass through a narrow tree-lined section. Generally it’s narrow with stones and tree stumps to trap the unwary. But it’s fast and full of crests - like Finland in the snow.

SS12: Rämmen 1, 22.76km
This is Saturday’s longest stage and also one of the quickest, with wide roads and several flat-out straights. Early in the test the road skirts the edge of Lake Holmsjon and follows the shores of another lake later on. Four uphill open hairpins near the midpoint calm the pace.

His DS 3 slid wide in a right corner and punctured the left rear tyre, but Østberg left the stop line fearing there might be suspension damage also. That wasn’t the case and he was third fastest through the following Rämmen test.

“We had a few problems with the gearbox in the first stage. That didn’t cause me to hit the bank, but I was out of the rhythm,” he said.

Sébastien Ogier moved ahead of Østberg in Fredriksberg, and the Frenchman was fastest in Rämmen in his Volkswagen Polo R to relegate Thierry Neuville and take second place. The gap between the duo is 7.9sec.

“There was so much fresh snow in the first stage,” said Ogier, who is second in the start order. “The second stage was better with less loose snow.”

Neuville arrived at the finish of Rämmen shaking his head and said: “I’m flat out everywhere and can do no more. I’m over the limit and taking too many risks. I want to fight for second but it will be difficult. I have a perfect racing line but I can’t go faster.”

Leader Andreas Mikkelsen was quickest through Fredriksberg but had a less enjoyable time in the next test. “We were a little in a ditch and filled the front of the car with snow. The rhythm wasn’t as good as the first stage,” said the Norwegian who dropped 8.0sec to Ogier.

Jari-Matti Latvala lost a handful of seconds after hitting a snow bank in his Polo R while Henning Solberg dropped five minutes in the opener after burying his Ford Fiesta RS into the snow. Solberg was also suffering the same gearchange issues that plagued him yesterday.

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