Jari-Matti Latvala has dominated day 1 of the Uddeholm Swedish Rally, the second round in the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship.

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT 'new boy' put in a fantastic performance and after setting the second best time on Thursday night, in the short 1.90 kilometre Karlstad super special, the Finn was on it from the off this morning.

Indeed he immediately made the most of his favourable position in the order - running tenth on the road - and grabbed the lead in SS2.

Jari was 3.3 seconds up on his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen in the 15.50 kilometre-run through Stensjon and then inched further ahead in SS3, when he again beat Mikko, this time by just 1.9 seconds.

It was in SS4 though that he really made his mark and with a time more than 15 seconds quicker than anyone else he more than quadrupled his lead, from 5.6 seconds to 23 seconds heading into the short remote service at Sunne.

In the afternoon, on the repeat loop, he was again the standard setter and was 4.2 seconds up on Gigi Galli in SS5. He continued his winning ways in SS6, 7.5 seconds quicker than his nearest rival, before completing a clean sweep of the days 'proper' stages in SS7, 3.3 seconds up on Gigi, who was again 'best of the rest'.

Latvala then posted the fourth best time in the second run through the Karlstad SSS and will now take a very good 48.2 second lead into day 2 and is seemingly well-placed to take his debut win in the WRC.

Mikko, who many tipped as the pre-event favourite, meanwhile finished day one in second having lost further ground this afternoon when he was first on the road following Sebastien Loeb's exit.

Loeb had been running third overall until SS4, when he hit a snowbank and rolled his C4 WRC. Although he managed to nurse his car to the mid-day halt his team was unable to make proper repairs - due to the restrictions that apply under the RSZ - and he retired on the following liaison section.

He will now rejoin the fold on Saturday under the SupeRally, although he is way down the order, nearly 20 minutes off a place in the top 10.

Loeb's exit bumped Henning Solberg up to P3 and he finished the leg less than 10 seconds off Mikko. Henning enjoyed a strong day in his Stobart Ford Focus and posted top six times in every single stage.

Further down the order, Gigi Galli is fourth in the sister Stobart car nominated to score manufacturers' points and the Italian isn't far off third either, just 5.7 seconds further back.

Like Henning he had a good day, gradually upping his pace and setting two second quickest times and a third in the afternoon. He also led the way and took the win in SS8, Karlstad 2.

Petter Solberg completes the top five, around 40 seconds off the battling Fords and nearly 30 seconds up on Mads Ostberg, who is in P6 in his Adapta-run Impreza WRC and on course for the privateer 'win'.

Matthew Wilson is next up and well placed to get his first points' finish of the year, followed by Suzuki's Toni Gardemeister, who had differential problems this afternoon and had to switch to the manual gearshift.

At least he got to the end of the day though, as his team-mate and local hero, Per-Gunnar Andersson wasn't so fortunate. P-G was sidelined by engine problems in SS4 and will not be able to re-start on Saturday.

Andreas Mikkelsen and Patrik Sandell round out the top ten, the latter also heading the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship category, 15.8 seconds up on Juho Hanninen, who finished in P11 overall.

Of the rest, BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT 'third' driver Khalid Al-Qassimi was twelfth, on his first ever outing on snow, while Citroen privateer Conrad Rautenbach was 14th and Dani Sordo 17th in the #2 works C4 WRC. Sordo started the event a long way down, having picked up a 5 minute penalty for an engine change prior to the start. Without that he would have sixth tonight.

Chris Atkinson could also have been higher up had he not spun in SS3 and lost over 15 minutes. That error has cost him dear and he is now going to be hard pushed to break back into the points. The Aussie ended the day in 46th position.

Urmo Aava had a tough day too on his debut in his privately entered Citroen C4 WRC - and he was forced out in SS7 when he stopped in the stage.

The action now resumes on Saturday, with three stages on the bill - each to be run twice, comprising around 120 competitive kilometres in total. SS9 - the 14.89 kilometre-run through Horssjon - gets underway at 08.25 hours local time.

More to follow then...


Loading Comments...