Round 1 was the most anticipated weekend of rallying for a long time. And we weren’t dissapointed. The new cars looked and sounded great for the fans and media. And it was a level playing field with all the drivers in the same machinery.
Mads Ostberg made the most of that and was easily the driver of the weekend. After an great drive on day 1 to lead Mikko Hirvonen by 14.8 seconds. When asked if he was really pushing he said, “I took it steady, its easy to get excited after talking to all the press (at midday service) so I took it steady and still fastest. I don’t understand why everyone is so slow.” With Petter being the highest placed Citroen in 3rd.
Day 2 kicked off with Mikko trying to chase down Ostberg, But the young norwegian doing
a great job of keeping his pace up. Henning rolled his car on stage after clipping a snow bank and sliding down the stage, Almost a repeat of what he did in 2006 in the Peugeot. By midday service Hirvonen caught up with Mads but only led by 0.3. Petter 3rd 31 seconds. On the second loop of stages some of the guys really struggled in the rooted stages on the second run through, all except for Fords Jari-Matti Latvala, who was flying through the stages. On the second to last stage of the day Jari swapped positions with Petter after he had a spin and had to drive up the stage the wrong way to find a place to turn around. Petter wasn’t the only driver to do that, PG and Loeb have a close call After PG had a spin and had to drive up the stage the wrong way to fin a place to turn.
Day 2 ended with less than 16 seconds separating the top 5. Works driver Hirvonen had Stobarts driver Mads Ostberg snapping at his heels in second, just 7.4 behind Mikko after the young Norwegian was just a few tenths quicker in the final Superspecial stage in Karlstad. privateer driver Petter Solberg gained back 3rd from Latvala on the last 2 stages of the day to finish 8.9, with Latvala 4th 10.9, after Ford team covered all bases with their two drivers and asked Jari to slow down before the end to ensure a good position for day 3. With Ogier getting back in to the fight finishing in 5th just 15.8 away from the leader.
Day 3 Started with the excitement of the battle, with any of the top 5 in with a chance of victory for the first time in the new 1.6 litre pocket rocket world rally cars. Hirvonen, running first on the road, was fastest on all three stages in the morning loop. Speaking at the midmorning service halt in Hagfors, the Fin said: “The lead is good but I could use another 10 seconds more. The car has been absolutely perfect and maybe running first on the road has helped for a change. But Mads is driving very well and it’s not over yet.”
Mads doing a great job in second, showing that he can do more than just keep up with the best drivers in the world, confident with his car and pushing but not talking to many risks. Petter finished the morning still in 3rd but 30 seconds off the leader due to a problem with the front damper. Latvala dropped to 5th behind Ogier after hitting a snow bank on stage 17. making it a close fight for 3rd place as only 8.7s between the french man and Solberg, with just 3 stages to go after the final mid-day service.
On Stage 20, Ostberg and Latvala kept up the pressure on the leader. On the penultimate stage of rally Sweden, Ostberg narrowed the gap of Mikko’s lead on Rally Sweden to just 4.9s with just the final stage to go. With all the drivers at stage end saying that they will go for it to grab though’s bonus 3 points for the championship on the final ‘Power stage’, the excitement reached its max. Jari in 3rd, with Petter and Ogier not far behind.
The Power Stage. Broadcast live on Television around the world, with 3 bonus points up for grabs and a winner to take victory for the first round of the 2011 season. And what a finish it was to the first round of 2011. Loeb and Ogier set and incredible time, Ogier fastest to take the first ‘Power stage’ win. Petter Solberg launches on to stage, but slower than usual, after anther look in on the on-board cam shows that Co-driver Chris Patterson was driving and Petter was sitting in the co-driver seat. Its said that Petter’s driving licence got revolked after caught speeding by swedish Police. Loebs car then has problems getting away from stage end, and last seen pushing to get it started.
Mikko Hirvonen Launches through the stage, 5th fastest to win Rally sweden, Round one of the 2011 World Championship in the brand new Ford fiesta RS World Rally Car. But driver of the day has to be Norwegians Mads Ostberg. showing what he can do in the same machinery as the top works drivers to take 2nd in Sweden. With Fin Jari-Matti Latvala coming home to take the bottom step of the podium. Ogier, after winning the power stage finishes in 4th. Solberg dropped to 5th after his co-driver drove the DS3 through the final stage and 7 times champ Sebastien Loeb finished in a disappointing 6th overall after a difficult weekend, if he can make it back to service.
Provisional Overall Results
1st Mikko Hirvonen
2nd Mads Ostberg +6.5
3rd Jari-Matti Latvala +34.0
4th Sebastien Ogier +47.7
5th Petter Solberg +1:31.2
6th Sebastien Loeb +2:30.3
7th PG Andersson +6:22.0
8th Kimi Raikkonen +7:02.3
9th Mathew Wilson +10:11.5
10th Khalid Al-Qassimi +10:31.1