Gronholm ends day one in Sweden on top
9 February 2007
BP Ford team leader, Marcus Gronholm leads the Uddeholm Swedish Rally, the second round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, following the opening leg.
Gronholm, who began the day in second position following the Karlstad super special on Thursday night, slipped back to fourth on the first run through the 21.78 kilometre Likenas test, as he struggled to find grip. The Finn, however, was more comfortable in SS3, setting the third best time and he then posted the second best time in Torntorp 1 to move back up to P2.
Marcus' charge up the leader-board continued after the mid-day service and three stage wins from a possible four allowed him to build a 11.1 second lead heading into the overnight halt. He will now go into the second day with a reasonable lead in his Focus, although with over 200 competitive kilometres still to go, it is by no means in the bag.
Sebastien Loeb heads the chasing pack in his C4, his only error coming on the super special, when he stalled his engine at the start and lost around 7 seconds. Seb though wasn't overly perturbed and by the mid-day service he had hauled himself up from 20th to fourth post-SS4, which he incidentally won. The Citroen man then proceed to make up more ground in the afternoon, winning SS7, the first run through the 24.63 kilometre Vargasen test to grab the runners-up spot.
Petter Solberg meanwhile has dropped down to third, after having held the lead early on. Petter won the first 'proper' test and was leading by four seconds heading into service B. The Norwegian though slipped back in the afternoon following SS6, SS7 and SS8 and is now just over 20 seconds off Gronholm.
Further down the order, Petter's brother, Henning is fourth in his Stobart Ford, the Norwegian having made gradual progress during the course of the day, as he continues to get to grips with the 06 spec Focus. He ended the leg 5 seconds off his brother, while Mikko Hirvonen is fifth, 3 seconds behind. Mikko lost time this morning when his power steering failed, but once that was fixed in service B he was back on it and regained some of the lost ground.
Mitsubishi privateer, Toni Gardemeister is next up, the Finn having started the event extremely positively. Gardemeister set the pace on the super special on Thursday night and was third overall until SS6, when he slipped back to fifth. The former Ford works driver ended the day sixth, although he is only 3.9 seconds behind Hirvonen.
OMV Kronos Citroen WRT duo, Daniel Carlsson and Manfred Stohl complete the top eight, the latter on course for the final drivers' point. Carlsson went well considering this is his first event with the Xsara and his first with new co-driver, Denis Giraudet. Stohl however was less happy in the sister car and finished up 20 seconds behind his team-mate. The Austrian conceded he is struggling 'a little' with the car.
Of the rest, Subaru's Chris Atkinson and Stobart's Jari-Matti Latvala round out the top ten, the former taking it steady eager to try and get a point in his Impreza.
Latvala, who is under instructions to get to the finish after failing to do so on the Rallye Monte Carlo, was running in the points for most of the day, until a slow time in SS7 dropped him to tenth. He goes into the overnight halt 30 seconds or so behind Atkinson.
As for the other works drivers', none have retired, Matthew Wilson is 16th, in the 'third' Stobart entry, while Munchi's Ford driver, Luis Perez Companc is one spot lower, in 17th and Dani Sordo is 22nd in the second works Citroen C4. Companc's team-mate, Juan Pablo Raises is 40th overall, having picked up a 4 minute penalty last night.
Gigi Galli shone early on, and deserves a mention. The Italian was running second overall after winning SS3 in his Aimont Racing-run Citroen Xsara. Things went wrong for him though in SS5, when he went off the road and lost around 4 minutes. Consequently he dropped down the order and is now in 24th position.
In the Production Car WRC category, Kristian Sohlberg has lead pretty much from the off in his Group N Impreza - excluding the super special. He finished the day 5.7 seconds up on the Mitsubishi of Juho Hanninen, while Anton Alen completes the provisional PWRC podium, 10 seconds or so up on Oscar Svedlund. Toshi Arai is fifth, while reigning Production champion, Nasser Al-Attiyah ended the day in eighth, 10 seconds up on three-time British champ, Mark Higgins.
The action now resumes on Saturday - leg two comprises seven timed stages, and ends with a repeat pass through the shortest test of the rally, the 1.87km Hagfors Sprint. The total competitive distance is 141.96 kilometre and the action begins at 0803hrs with the 10 kilometre Lesjofors stage.