9 February 2001
Sainz scythes through the Swedish snow.
''I could probably push a bit harder in places but you have to approach corners differently with this car than I'm used to,” said Radstrom. “I'm learning all the time, and I think I can go quicker still tomorrow.''
Hyundai's Kenneth Eriksson was determined to score a good result on home soil and the Swede has held a top-ten placing throughout the opening day, despite being held up by Colin McRae's snow dust after the Ford driver rejoined the route after an accident, he holds sixth going into tomorrow's second leg.
''The car's been working really well and perhaps it's better to run a bit further back, but when people hit the snow banks they knock fresh snow into our path as well. It's good to be able to fight for points placings,'' said Eriksson.
Alister McRae suffered a cracked turbo pipe in the longest stage of the day (SS4) resulting in lost boost and the Scot dropping more than a minute and a half to his team-mate. He holds thirteenth place overnight.
Richard Burns's hopes of getting even a point from rally Sweden disappeared on SS2, when the Englishman slid his Subaru Impreza onto the top of a snowbank and lost more than 12 minutes.
''I braked too late at the end of a sixth-gear section and I knew the car wouldn't make it round the corner,” explained Burns. “I got turned in, but then it went straight through the snow bank on the outside. We'll continue - I can play with the car a bit, and there are some new stages to see.''
Meanwhile Markko Martin held a promising fourth place until he suffered a puncture in SS4 - and damaged the car's brakes and bodywork as a result. ''The puncture was disappointing because our times had been good up to that point,” commented Martin. “I'm just glad to get some kilometres after such short rallies before now! I still don't quite trust the car - I need more experience for that.'' The Estonian currently lies in 21st place, nearly 6mins down.
Petter Solberg adopted a steady approach throughout the day to hold eighth position overnight, 1min 12.2secs off Sainz.
Skoda's Bruno Thiry set the tenth fastest time on the day's opening stage and continued to show good form throughout the opening leg; the 39-year-old Belgian revelling in the Octavia WRC's fine handling particularly on the faster sections.
“This is one of my favourite rallies and today, with newly fallen snow and blue skies, it's been beautiful. We hit something in the darkness during the last stage and suffered a puncture but the car has been running well and I'm pleased with our performance. The chassis is perfectly balanced... with a little more power, I know we would be challenging the leaders.”
Schwarz, competing in his first Swedish Rally for four years, started steadily by setting the 21st fastest time on the day's first stage but quickly moved up the leaderboard as he reacquainted himself with the art of rallying at high speeds on snow and ice.
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