Tricky conditions mastered as well as possible at the Rally Sweden: Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) lead after day one of the classic rally. With conditions extremely difficult to judge on the opening day of round two of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), the world rally champions of the past three years, and early leaders in this year’s championship, opened a commanding lead of 26.9 seconds over Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ, Hyundai), with Mads Østberg/Ola Flœne (N/N, M-Sport-Ford) a further 6.8 seconds back.
With roughly half of the total distance behind them, Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N) find themselves 42.0 seconds off the lead in sixth place. However, with just 15 seconds separating them from second place, they are still well within striking distance of the podium. While the duo currently second in the world championship dropped down the standings after some fine times on the early stages, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila in the third Polo R WRC were stopped in their tracks by a damaged drive shaft on the very first stage of the day. They ultimately had to retire with a broken suspension and will rejoin the race under Rally 2 regulations on Saturday.
A number of special stages at the Rally Sweden were cancelled prior to the start of the event, as a result of unusually warm weather and persistent rain in the run-up to the classic rally. Although the organisers pulled out all the stops to ensure the route of the Rally Sweden was as well prepared as possible by the start on Friday, they still had to bow down to the weather. The 118.36 kilometres of special stage completed on Friday represent about half of the total distance of the 2016 Rally Sweden.
Quotes after day one of the Rally Sweden
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“All in all it was a good day for us. The conditions were far from easy, especially in the afternoon when, as the first car onto the route, we swept the fresh snow off the road for those behind us. I went flat-out from the word go, as I knew that we would lose time in the afternoon. We could not have pushed any harder. We were very lucky this morning on the fourth stage, ‘Svullrya’, when we were caught out by some water and skidded off the road. Fortunately, we got off lightly and just lost a bit of time. An eventful day, but we are happy.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“About two kilometres from the end of the first stage I suffered a malfunction on the front-left drive shaft after a jump. Driving with only rear-wheel drive in these weather conditions is a very difficult undertaking, and it was impossible to avoid losing a massive amount of time. As such, the rally was basically over before it had really got going. Then we suffered suspension damage on the final stage of the afternoon. It is obviously depressing, but, as a good sportsman, all you can do is look ahead and try to attack again next time.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“We made a few mistakes today. The fact that we are not up there with the leaders is entirely my fault. The first mistake on the fourth stage could have happened to anyone having to open the route, as my team-mate Sébastien Ogier and I did. We skidded off the road after an unforeseeable water splash and were lucky to get back on track. I also spun once today, damaged the front of the Polo, and was then simply too cautious. Despite this, we still have a good chance of finishing on the podium. That is obviously what we will be fighting for tomorrow and on Sunday.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“First of all, I would like to pay a huge compliment to the organisers. They really pulled out all the stops to make it possible to stage the Rally Sweden at all. Thanks to the remarkable commitment they showed, they were able to defy the unseasonably warm temperatures, which are not exactly typical here in Sweden. The conditions were not only extremely difficult for the organisers, but also for the drivers and co-drivers. After the Recce, the roads were levelled out, watered and then froze overnight. We then had heavy snowfall today – it was virtually impossible to predict what awaited the drivers and co-drivers. That only makes the performance of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia all the better, when you consider that they had to open the route. Like their team-mates, Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger also came off the road a couple of times – but lost considerably more time in the process. Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were just unlucky to suffer a broken drive shaft early on, and then a broken suspension later in the day. Despite the minor problems, we are happy with this result on such a difficult day.”
And then there were ...
... 400 hours in front of the “box”. Andreas Mikkelsen’s new co-driver, Anders Jæger, spent the last few years preparing himself for the WRC elite by studying videos. And an average of 400 hours of video a year at that. This is the equivalent of half of the average TV consumption per year in his home country of Norway.
And then there was also …
… the all-important hour in front of the “goggle-box”. The idea that Andreas Mikkelsen and Andreas Jæger could form a duo in the World Rally Championship was born whilst thrashing it out on a games console. It was as Mikkelsen and Jæger were battling it out on a rally simulation that the man who has finished third in the WRC for the last two years uttered the magic sentence: “Why don’t you be my co-driver?” No sooner had the words left his mouth than Jæger set about preparing. And now here he is, second in this year’s world championship.