Sebastien Ogier sent his WRC rivals a warning with victory in Sweden, maintaining his 100% record for the season. Already the Frenchman looks dominant in 2016, his Volkswagen winning by just under thirty seconds.
However the biggest story from this rally was the unusually high temperatures, leading to a much shorter itinerary with 9 out of the planned 21 stages cancelled due to little snow on the surface. This follows the cancellation of the first round of the European Rally Championship for an identical reason. Drivers and fans alike must hope that this is just a one-off as the snow of Scandanavia is a unique challenge for the WRC and always proves to be spectacular viewing. Kudos must surely go out to the organisers of the Rally for doing a great job to make remaining stages safe to run on the studded tyres.
With the potential action much reduced, the drivers faced six stages on day one and it was here where Ogier showed his dominance. This was made even more impressive given that he was running as the first car on the road and therefore had to sweep the road for the cars behind. The star of the day though, even more than Ogier, was Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon, who leaped into second place overall ahead of several drivers more at home on snow. With team-mate Dani Sordo fifth overall, this was huge encouragement for the team that the new car could finally challenge the mighty Polo. It wasn’t all good news for Hyundai though; team leader Thierry Neuville suffered a freak transmission problem that wrecked his chance at victory. Mads Ostberg led the nordic challenge in third overall, just seven seconds behind Paddon.
Day two started with a charge from Ogier’s team-mate Andreas Mikklesen, who threw away the victory on the final stage last year. He moved up three places onto the podium placings, before an off dropped him back behind countryman Ostberg. Ogier though suffered with being first car on the road, especially when there was a lot of snow on the surface. He dropped over 20 seconds to Paddon on just one stage but held on to the lead going into the final day, which would only include the Power Stage due to cancellations.
On the Power Stage it was Ogier who was fastest, taking the bonus three points along with the twenty five for the rally. Paddon survived hitting a couple of wooden posts to take second with Ostberg holding off Mikkelsen by fifteen seconds for the final podium place. Behind the top four, Ott Tanak took fifth ahead of a rejuvenated Sordo. Henning Solberg won the fight with Irishman Craig Breen for seventh, the pair seperated by just five seconds at the close. Kris Meeke, who was the closest challenger last time out in Monte Carlo, broke his suspension, whilst driveshaft problems and a puncture was the downfall for the third Polo of Jari-Matti Latvala. Elfyn Evans took his second consecutive WRC-2 victory in dominant fashion. The win meant that Ogier had already opened out a 23 point lead in the Drivers’ Championship over Mikkelsen, with Ostberg third, 6 points further back.
The next rally is Rally Mexico, known for its long stages that are tough on both man and machine. Taking place between the fourth and the sixth of March, the question for everyone is ‘Can Ogier be caught?’
Results – Rally Sweden 2016
|1||Sebastien Ogier||Volkswagen Polo R WRC||1:59:47.4|
|2||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai i20 WRC ‘16||+29.8|
|3||Mads Ostberg||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+55.6|
|4||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Polo R WRC||+1:10.8|
|5||Ott Tanak||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+1:50.7|
|6||Dani Sordo||Hyundai i20 WRC ‘16||+2:24.0|
|7||Henning Solberg||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2:40.0|
|8||Craig Breen||Citroen DS3 WRC||+2:44.6|
|9||Elfyn Evans||Ford Fiesta R5||+5:17.0|
|10||Teemu Suninen||Skoda Fabia R5||+5:31.6|