Volkswagen's Andreas Mikkelsen will take a 19.1 second advantage over Thierry Neuville into day two of Rally Sweden.
Mikkelsen finished the morning loop in third place, 19.6s off earlier leader Sebastien Ogier and 10.5s behind Jari-Matti Latvala. The Norwegian then continued to hold third this afternoon, closing slightly on his team-mates, before both slipped back in SS9, the penultimate test of the day. Mikkelsen then concluded the leg with the sixth best time in the repeat-run through the short 1.90 km Karlstad SSS.
“It is fantastic to be leading the Rally Sweden after the special stages in Norway. However, it does come as a bit of a surprise,” Mikkelsen admitted.
“We did not find our rhythm straight away today. Only in the afternoon did things pan out as we had envisaged. The fans in Norway cheered us on furiously, and gave us an extra boost of motivation. It is nice to be able to present them with this result after day one, even though we did benefit from our team-mates' misfortune.”
“And, it is only the lead after day one,” stressed the VW Motorsport II pilot, who was quickest in SS8, prior to the dramas in Torsby 2.
“We still have a lot of work to do and must continue to drive intelligently if we are to convert it into something that counts. There is still a long way to go to the finish, and I am certain my Sebastien, Mads [Ostberg] and Thierry [Neuville] will not give in without a fight.”
“It has been a good day overall and we have definitely shown some encouraging pace,” Neuville added. “The morning started off quite tricky and it was difficult to estimate the grip levels. I took it cautiously because it was just the start of the rally.
“The conditions in the afternoon loop were more equal and we were able to show our true potential. In SS9, it started to get dark, which made it difficult we had a few very nice corners and took our first stage win of the season. We start tomorrow from second overall, although we know there are more challenges to come.”
Further back, Ostberg is only 0.3s off Neuville in his DS3 WRC, and frustrated at having lost time when he was distracted by a spectator - “a very, very stupid guy” - walking on the racing line in SS8.
“A good day but too many incidents. I hope the organisers can do something about the [unruly] spectators. I lost over 10 seconds [avoiding one] and Prokop did too. It cost me my chance of fighting for the victory earlier,” Ostberg noted.
Ogier holds fourth, 5.3s further back, but philosophical about his error in SS9, that cost him around 30s and the lead.
“The plan now is the same: keep pushing as hard as I can. We had to take risks today,” the Frenchman explained. “Running first on the road was a problem in the second loop. I pushed hard to compensate. No regrets though. I made a mistake but I am happy with my day."
Ott Tanak is a distant fifth for M-Sport, 41.5s further adrift, and 30.9s up on Hyundai's Hayden Paddon.
“We seemed to be struggling in the morning,” Tanak noted. “Maybe it was something to do with our road position because the times were a long way from the leaders in the morning, but when the conditions were more even in the afternoon we were a lot closer.
“But still I was not fully confident. I need to have a good sleep tonight and make sure that I'm in good shape for tomorrow. So long as we can find a good rhythm I think we can be better. There are some really nice stages tomorrow so I just want to go out there, push hard and have some fun!”
Ford privateer Martin Prokop holds seventh with Yuriy Protasov, Henning Solberg, Elfyn Evans, Kevin Abbring and Kris Meeke in positions 8 through to 12.
Robert Kubica finished the day in 22nd place, forced to limp through most of the afternoon stages with front-wheel drive only, while Latvala is one place lower in 23rd, having lost almost 8.5 minutes in SS9, when he went off right at the end of the test and got stuck.
"I am quite disappointed,” Latvala commented. “It is not the easiest to find the motivation now. We have work to do to get the focus back. I will try to find a good feeling for the driving. The plan now is to get myself back in a points' position if I can."
In WRC2, Jari Ketomaa leads, 46.1s up on Valeriy Gorban. Gorban is locked in a close three-way fight for P2, just 0.4s up on Fredrik Ahlin, while Eyvind Brynildsen is in P4 – only 2.6s further back.
Rally Sweden now continues on Saturday with two loops of four stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of 134.82 km.
SS11, the 18.15km Fredriksberg 1 test, is due to start tomorrow at 07.48 hours local time [06.48 hours UK time].
Full itinerary for event available – HERE
2015 Rally Sweden: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):
1. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC 1h 14m 03.6s
2. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +19.1s
3. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +19.4s
4. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +24.7s
5. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 06.2s
6. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 37.1s
7. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 00.5s
8. Yuriy Protasov
M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 11.4s
9. Henning Solberg
M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 18.2s
10. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 49.6s
11. Kevin Abbring
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +3m 09.6s
12. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +3m 31.3s
13. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta R5 +3m 42.0s
14. Michal Solowow
Synthos Cersanit RT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 03.8s
15. Valeriy Gorban
Mini Cooper S2000 1.6T +4m 28.1s
16. Fredrik Ahlin
Ford Fiesta R5 +4m 28.5s
17. Eyvind Brynildsen
Ford Fiesta RRC +4m 31.1s
22. Robert Kubica
RK WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7m 50.7s
23. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +8m 27.0s
WRC2 standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):
1. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta R5 1h 17m 45.6s
2. Valeriy Gorban
Mini Cooper S2000 1.6T +0m 46.1s
3. Fredrik Ahlin
Ford Fiesta R5 +0m 46.5s
SS5/6. Lorenzo Bertelli
FWRT SRL Ford Fiesta RS WRC Mechanical
*denotes expected to re-start under Rally 2 on Saturday
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial