Sweden debrief: Part Two
The second part of our look back at the championship's winter challenge.
Stage of the Rally:
Rally Sweden's signature test, Vargåsen was in tip-top condition this year and highlighted the unique appeal of this rally brilliantly.
Run twice on Saturday, a fresh dusting of snow created a perfect winter scene, while the flat out section near the start and a series of corners and crests deep in the forest made it a favourite with drivers.
Mads Østberg's 42-metre jump over Colin's Crest gave the thousands of excited fans gathered there plenty to cheer, while Thierry Neuville's hairy corkscrew landing [below] provided the drama. This year, Vargåsen had it all.
One to forget:
After the high of Rallye Monte-Carlo, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team came down to earth with a bump in Sweden, going from first to last in the WRC manufacturers' championship standings.
Sébastien Ogier's success at the opening round earned him the dubious honour of ploughing the snow-covered roads on Friday, while his team-mate Elfyn Evans endured another luckless weekend, picking up a puncture and then struggling with his car's set up.
"We knew that this event would be difficult, but we faced a bigger disadvantage than I think any of us had expected," team boss Malcolm Wilson acknowledged.
Surprise of the rally:
Rally Sweden is an event Mads Østberg knows well – he'd done it a whopping 10 times before last weekend. But how would he fare at the wheel of a Citroën C3 this time around after just one day of testing? The answer was simple: impressively.
Although his last WRC outing came at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB in October, Mads wasted little time getting to grips with his new steed and his reward was five top-five stage times (SS1, SS2, SS4, SS7 and SS15) and sixth overall at the Swedish finish. Not a bad weekend by anyone's standards.
Having endured a stop-start WRC career in recent times, will his latest result be the catalyst for more outings with the Red Army? He's hoping so.
You'll never believe it:
The WRC is not a contact sport, but Kris Meeke and Ott Tänak got too close for comfort during the Hagfors test (SS13) on Saturday afternoon.
Meeke was first to hit trouble, nosing his Citroën C3 into a snowbank and rejoining the road at reduced speed. Next in the running order, Tänak soon caught Meeke's ailing C3 and went for a pass on the left-hand side, as his rival pulled over to the right. All good so far, except then they collided and Tanak's Toyota was punted off into a snow bank.
Ott claimed Meeke had pulled back onto the road and hit his Toyota, while Meeke was equally convinced Tänak had driven into him. Who do you believe?
Armstrong tops Sweden eSports
Ulsterman leads drivers’ and teams’ series
Sweden debrief: part 1
Reflections from 2018’s only winter round
Countdown Rally México