Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier set the pace this morning in the shakedown for Rally Sweden, round two in 2015 WRC, although proceedings were marred after a photographer was struck by Michal Solowow's Fiesta RS WRC.
The accident happened 38 minutes in, when Solowow went off shortly before the finish of the 4.30 km Rada test. The shakedown was then halted, with a rescue vehicle and ambulance deployed to the scene. It has since been confirmed that the photographer suffered no serious injuries
Meanwhile, when the shakedown resumed 40-50 minutes after Solowow's crash, Ogier went on to post the fastest time, completing it in 1 minute 59 seconds, on his fourth and final pass.
"Ice and snow are some of my very favourite conditions, so I am glad to be back in Sweden again," said Ogier. "The roads were in perfect condition when we did the recce. Unfortunately it has warmed up a little, and you could really notice this on the Shakedown. When it starts to thaw, the conditions become very slippery and far from easy. For this reason, I hope it freezes over again during the night. If so, the fans can look forward to a spectacular rally.
"The fiercest opposition will certainly come from the Nordic drivers like Ostberg, [Ott] Tanak and, of course, my team-mates Jari-Matti and Andreas. Julien [Ingrassia - my co-driver] and I are feeling just as good as our Polo R WRC coming into this event.”
Former F1 driver, Robert Kubica and Citroen's Mads Ostberg came in joint second, the former opting for six runs, while the latter did seven.
“Our tests went very well indeed,” Ostberg told the official Citroen site. “The conditions were perfect. We were able to work on the developments of the DS 3 WRC. This morning, we had slightly milder temperatures. There is already some melted snow on the racing line. The weather is changing quickly and gravel is beginning to appear. We have to hope that it gets colder again tomorrow.”
Kris Meekwas was next up for Citroen, only 0.1 seconds further back, with Volkswagen duo Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala fifth and sixth respectively. Yuriy Protasov and Elfyn Evans rounded out the top eight.
“My aim is to produce the kind of pace you'd expect of a driver competing in his second Rally Sweden,” said Meeke. “The shakedown went pretty well. So that's encouraging before the start.”
“That was the first time that I have completed the Shakedown stage here at full speed," Mikkelsen added. "In previous years we have always had to look after the tyres, but this time we had access to a set of spikes specifically for the Shakedown.
"The walls of snow along at the sides of the road are particularly high this time, so the route was very narrow. It was anything but easy out there, but this made it a good warm-up for the coming days. Unfortunately you could also see how the conditions were improving with every car.”
Rally Sweden now officially begins this evening, with the ceremonial start and the first run through the 1.90 km Karlstad super special (SS1) – due to get underway at 20.08 hours local time [19.08 hours UK time].
The action then continues on Friday with nine stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of 124.54 km. SS2, Torbsy 1, is scheduled to run at 08.29 hours local time [07.29 hours UK time]. Full itinerary for event available – HERE
2015 Rally Sweden: Shakedown times (Top 8):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1m 59.0s
2. Robert Kubica
RK WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1m 59.2s
= Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC 1m 59.2s
4. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +1m 59.3s
5. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 1m 59.5s
6. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1m 59.9s
7. Yuriy Protasov
M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 01.9
8. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2m 02.1s
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial