Sebastien Ogier led from the start of Rally Sweden to take his third win on the World Rally Championship’s only winter rally.
Unseasonably warm temperatures in the appropriately named Varmland (literally ‘warm land’) region that hosts the rally meant the entire event was in doubt in the week beforehand, as both snow and ice were in short supply. Fortunately, a cold snap meant the rally was able to run to a truncated schedule.
Ogier started as he meant to continue, setting a run of fastest times on Friday morning. He came under some pressure, initially from Kris Meeke before the Northern Irishman clouted a rock and retired from the day’s proceedings.
Hyundai man Hayden Paddon inherited second from Meeke and kept Ogier honest throughout the rest of Friday and Saturday. But by Sunday, the impressive Kiwi – in only his third Swedish outing and first in the new-gen i20 WRC – was out of touch. With only one of the four scheduled stages taking place, there was little Paddon could do to pull back the deficit. Ogier set the fastest time and took victory by 30 seconds.
Behind the leading pair, an entertaining scrap developed for third between the Mads Ostberg and Andreas Mikkelsen. The Norwegians were running neck-and-neck until a spin by Mikkelsen put paid to the VW driver’s chances, leaving Ford pilot Ostberg to claim the last step on the podium.
Jari-Matti Latvala was another VW driver in strife after his Polo suffered a broken driveshaft on the very first stage; suspension failure forced his retirement later on Friday. He rejoined on Saturday and set a couple of fastest times, leaving him to wonder what might have been.
Ott Tanak showed flashes of speed on his way to fifth in the DMACK Ford. Hyundai team leader Dani Sordo was sixth ahead of fan favourite Henning Solberg in his Fiesta.
Craig Breen was a fine eighth on his debut for Citroen while Elfyn Evans was ninth, his second consecutive WRC2 category win ahead of Teemu Suninen.
With two wins and two Power Stage victories, Sebastien Ogier has claimed maximum points so far and leads the championship on 56 points. Andreas Mikkelsen lies second on 33, ahead of Mads Ostberg (27), Hayden Paddon (18) and Dani Sordo (18). Expected championship challengers Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala have yet to get going, Meeke scoring a single point for going third fastest on the Power Stage in Sweden.
Next time, the WRC crosses the Atlantic for Rally Mexico on 4-6 March.
Rally Sweden top ten finishers after 21 stages (9 cancelled)
- Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 1:59:47.4
- Hayden Paddon/John Kennard — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +29.8s
- Mads Ostberg/Ola Floene – M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +55.6s
- Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — +1:10.8s
- Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder — DMACK WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +1:50.7s
- Dani Sordo/Marc Marti — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +2:24.0s
- Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor — Adapta Motorsport/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +2:40.0s
- Craig Breen/Scott Martin — Abu Dhabi Total WRT/Citroen DS3 WRC — +2:44.6s
- Elfyn Evans/Craig Parry — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta R5 — +5:17.0s
- Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula — Team Oreca/Skoda Fabia R5 — +5:31.6s
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By Only Motors