M-Sport Stobart Ford man Mads Ostberg has taken the lead on Rally Sweden this morning following the first three 'proper' tests.

Ostberg, who was sixth quickest in the short Karlstad SSS last night, grabbed the lead immediately today, when he set the pace in SS2, the 24.63 kilometre-run through Varg?sen 1. The Norwegian then extended his lead in SS3, when he was second quickest, before finishing the loop as he had started it, with another quickest time. He now goes into Service B in Hagfors with a 24.8 second cushion over his nearest rival.

"This is fantastic!" Ostberg said. "I'm feeling very good and I am confident driving this car. I trust the pace notes, I trust my co-driver and most of all I trust the fantastic car that I am driving. I really pushed in the first stage but since then I've not been taking any risks but everything has just been going better and better for us.

"For sure, I've been able to take advantage of my good road position but I think if we continue to follow the lines and keep the same set-up it will be a good afternoon. We will run with two spares this afternoon, just as a precaution, but we have really been enjoying ourselves out on the stages this morning."

Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile is 'best of the rest', despite only having been second in SS2 and fourth in SS3 and SS4: "My start position helped but conditions are still incredibly difficult," noted the Ford Abu Dhabi WRT #1. "Everything worked perfectly and the handling was great, but trying to learn a new car in such difficult weather isn't easy. I had a few close escapes and came close to spinning in slow corners on several occasions. Perhaps I was too cautious in places as a result, but I made no mistakes and that's important."

Petter Solberg completes the top-three, albeit more than 30 seconds further back in his privately entered Citroen DS3 WRC: "It is so very difficult, the conditions change all the time. It was fun to drive a short bit into Norway and I can tell you we made a good show for the spectators," continued 'Hollywood', who was later handed a ten second penalty for being late at the time control after the mid-day service.

Next up is Jari-Matti Latvala, 24.2 seconds off the final place on the podium after he spun in SS4 and lost more than 20 seconds: "I knew it was going to be tough because there was so much loose snow and so little grip," Latvala explained. "It made the roads narrower than on the recce and I touched the snow banks in many corners. I had a big spin about 7km after the start in L?vhaugen which removed the rear spoiler.

"After a crest the car touched a snow bank and spun through more than 360?. I kept the revs high and fortunately we didn't get stuck, but I was lucky. Because the car is so short it moves around quickly, and I have to react much faster than I needed to with the Ford Focus last season."

Patrik Sandell rounds out the top five after an impressive performance in his Skoda Fabia S2000, followed by M-Sport Stobart man, Henning Solberg and fellow Fabia S2000 runner, Eyvind Brynildsen. Sebastien Ogier heads the 'works' Citroens, 11.7 seconds up on his team-mate, Sebastien Loeb, who lost time running first in the order.

"There was a lot of fresh snow," Loeb explained. "I was doing my bit as a snow plough, and I know I'm going to lose a lot of time throughout the day! There's not much I can do apart from keeping the car between the walls. You could say it's almost undriveable in places. There's absolutely no grip as the tyres can't get their studs into the ice under the snow. I hope the roads will have less snow this afternoon, but I'm afraid that we'll continue to lose big chunks of time during the second passage through the stages."

Ogier was similarly finding the going tough: "We've still got a lot to learn with so much snow and so little grip. We're not taking too many risks as the conditions are very tricky. I felt more at ease in the second stage of the loop. It was a bit more complicated in the narrow sections, and I went straight on at a crossroads in Lovhaugen.

"We're losing time, so during the service halt we're going to adapt the Citro?n DS3 WRC to this afternoon's conditions."

Of the rest, Martin Prokop completes the top ten, with F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen narrowly behind in P11 and PWRC leader, Anders Grondal twelfth, more than a minute up on his nearest class rival, Patrik Flodin.

P-G Andersson, who led overnight, had a bad morning, losing time in SS2 when he touched a bank and rolled his car. He also lost further time in SS4 with a puncture and consequently is now down in 21st place.

Britain's Matt Wilson also struggled and lies just two spots ahead of P-G in 19th after he was slowed by power steering problems: "It's been a very difficult morning," Matt reflected. "The conditions have been hard on the roads and when the car starts to slide, the steering locks and it feels as if the car goes solid. The car feels very heavy and it's not giving me any confidence - it's not good in conditions which are as hard as these.

"Stage 4 was the most difficult and I lost a lot of time but this afternoon should be a bit clearer. We will have to work hard at service - the rack and pump are going to be changed which will hopefully help and make it work better for the second pass."

The action now continues this afternoon with a repeat run through this morning's tests. SS5, Varg?sen 2, starts at 14.13 hours local time.

Rally Sweden: Overall standings after Stage 4 (Top 10):

1. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC 40mins 10.8secs M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 24.8secs M
3. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 55.6secs A1
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 19.8secs M
5. Patrik Sandell Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 20.0secs A2
6. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 21.4secs M
7. Eyvind Brynildsen Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 27.1secs A2
8. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +01mins 35.0secs M
9. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +01mins 46.7secs M
10. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 +02mins 06.3secs A2

Others:

11. Kimi Raikkonen ICE 1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +02mins 08.8secs M
12. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza STi +02mins 14.1secs P
13. Khalid Al-Qassimi Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 27.6secs A1
14. Denis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 58.4secs M
15. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza STi +03mins 16.8secs P

17. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 42.5secs M
19. Matt Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 02.9secs A1
21. PG Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 46.9secs A1

PWRC standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):

1. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza STi 42mins 24.9secs P
2. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza STi +01mins 02.7secs P
3. Martin Semerad Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +01mins 20.8secs P

Notable retirements:

None.

all times unofficial

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment