M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team man Mads Ostberg remains in the lead of Rally Sweden at the end of the opening day, although Mikko Hirvonen closed the gap this afternoon.
Ostberg grabbed top spot immediately this morning and won two of the three tests to go into the mid-day service with a 24.8 second cushion. The Norwegian, who is battling to secure his maiden WRC win, then stretched his advantage to 32.8 seconds on the repeat-run through Vargåsen, SS5, when he was joint quickest with P-G Andersson. Although he was only eighth in SS6, Hirvonen was only a couple of seconds quicker, and so he remained 29.5 seconds ahead.
However on the final test, SS7, the 19.26 km Løvhaugen 2 test, Ostberg lost out after the lightpod on his Fiesta RS WRC got dislodged early on. Subsequently he was 22.5 seconds off the pace and only seventh quickest, conceding 14.7 seconds to Hirvonen. He will now go into day two with his lead cut to 14.8 seconds.
“I've never been in this position but it feels great – I could definitely get used to it! We had a very good morning and the car was running perfectly but I lost some time this afternoon which is a little disappointing," Ostberg reflected.
"I'm going to be first on the road tomorrow which is a disadvantage so I really wanted to make as big a gap as possible to try and take off some pressure tomorrow morning.
"The last stage today was just unbelievable – I hit a dip about 2 km in and knocked the front light pod so it was pointing at a funny angle. It was a nightmare to try and drive without proper lighting and I couldn't see much but I was still trying to push. In my head, there is no such thing as tactics – I just go at my own speed and enjoy it but tomorrow I will be on maximum attack.”
Petter Solberg meanwhile remains on course for the final place on the podium in his privately entered Citroen DS3 WRC, although he has slipped further behind the battle for P1. Indeed he is now 57.4 seconds off Ostberg and 42.6 seconds behind Hirvonen: "I had some ice on the inside of the windshield [on the final test]. [Overall though] it has been a good day," Solberg said.
Jari-Matti Latvala is next up and having lost time with a spin in the final stage this morning, he managed to re-gain some ground on the repeat loop, setting the pace in the last test of the day to close to within 12.6 seconds of 'Hollywood'.
"I hit the snow again on the opening stage this afternoon, but got away with it," Latvala revealed. "It was the third time I was lucky. In these conditions it's vital to be confident and committed, and if you are then there will be occasions when you hit snow banks. I feel 100 percent confident with the car, so I must accept that there are occasions when this will happen."