Day 1: Team-by-team

Leg one of the Swedish Rally saw some of the closest competition ever witnessed on the event - with the lead margin as small as 0.1s for much of the day, and Marcus Gronholm starting day two just 0.2s ahead of Petter Solberg. Autosport's rallies editor David Evans summarises the fortunes of the leading teams

Day 1: Team-by-team

Sebastien Loeb admitted his overnight position 12.5s off the lead was more than he'd dared hope for on the eve of the event. The threatened overnight snow didn't arrive, meaning more favourable conditions for the first on the road Frenchman. His only drama throughout the opening leg was an overshoot in SS4, which cost 15s and the chance of leading at the end of leg one. Francois Duval's day was also mechanically free from trouble, but he admitted he hadn't enjoyed the variable grip levels on offer from the stages at all.

The highlight of Henning Solberg's day was coming within 0.1s of beating his brother on SS5. The low point was a puncture on SS6. About three miles from the end he clipped a rock with the left-front wheel. The mousse system failed in the tyres, leaving him to drive on the shredded rubber to the finish at the cost of 20s. After his stunning debut with the Ford team in Monte Carlo (where he finished second) Toni Gardemeister looked all at sea on an event he had pinpointed as one of his strongest of the season. By the end of the day he'd given himself a headache, thinking so hard about the conundrum that was the right set-up for his Focus.

Petter Solberg had promised no heroics, with a podium position targeted for Sunday afternoon. Even after he'd managed to set fastest times on the first two stages of the event, he remained adamant he wasn't taking chances. He ended the day 0.2s off the lead, looking by far the most comfortable he ever has done on this event. Stephane Sarrazin spent the day playing himself into the car and the conditions, without any technical trouble. With his confidence boosted from a trouble-free day, he is ready to step it up tomorrow.

Marcus Gronholm was only really happy with the third stage of the day, not enjoying the conditions on any of the other six. What he was happy with was a problem-free run in the Peugeot - and the fact that he was leading. Markko Martin was 36.9s down on his team-mate and hadn't really looked like challenging at the front throughout the opening leg. Getting to talk to the Estonian was a nightmare as he remained deep in conversation with his engineer for seemingly every second he wasn't in a stage. Tomorrow, we'll see whether it was time well spent.

The two Lancer WRC05 drivers couldn't have told more different tales of their opening legs. Harri Rovanpera, who hasn't been here since 2003, was disgruntled at the handling and set-up of his car, not to mention the conditions. Gigi Galli, on the other hand, couldn't stop smiling. On his first snow rally in a WRC, although he has competed in Sweden five times previously, he was right at the sharp end today. Fourth overall and his first ever fastest time at WRC level ensured the Italian would sleep soundly tonight.

Reigning DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom led the Skoda trio at the end of leg one. He'd played himself in confidently and didn't have any of the problems endured by his team-mates. Janne Tuohino went off the road on SS6 while suffering gear selection trouble. Jani Paasonen's problems came earlier in the day, when he stalled on the startline of stages two and three. Worse was to follow after a sheared wheel nut forced a change of hub at lunchtime service, costing him 20s in penalties as he was late out of service.

Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot 307) 58m20.8s
Petter Solberg (Subaru Impreza) 58m21.0s
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Xsara) 58m31.0s
Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi Lancer) 58m39.7s
Francois Duval (Citroen Xsara) 58m48.8s
Markko Martin (Peugeot 307) 58m57.7s
Toni Gardemeister (Ford Focus) 59m18.2s
Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi Lancer) 59m19.1s
Mattias Ekstrom (Skoda Fabia) 59m24.6s
Janne Tuohino (Skoda Fabia) 59m27.9s
Henning Solberg (Ford Focus) 59m28.7s
Roman Kresta (Ford Focus) 59m30.0s
Daniel Carlsson (Peugeot 307) 59m46.4s
Jani Paasonen (Skoda Fabia) 59m47.6s
Tobias Johansson (Subaru Impreza)1h00m18.9s
Chris Atkinson (Subaru Impreza) 1h00m21.7s
Stephane Sarrazin (Subaru Impreza) 1h00m57.7s
Anthony Warmbold (Ford Focus) 1h01m08.2s
Stig-Olov Walfridsson (Mitsubishi Lancer) 1h01m55.8s
Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Focus) 1h02m33.3s

Day 1: Gronholm's tiny lead

Previous article

Day 1: Gronholm's tiny lead

Next article

SS9: Solberg retakes lead

SS9: Solberg retakes lead
Load comments
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Plus

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

Oct 18, 2021
The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0 Plus

The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0

Two decades after Petter Solberg emerged as a World Rally Championship winner, his son Oliver is ready to take the WRC by storm. Having secured a part-time WRC factory drive for Hyundai in 2022, he's raring to repay the marque's faith in him and follow in his 2003 champion father's footsteps

Oct 14, 2021
Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season Plus

Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season

The World Rally Championship will step into a new hybrid era in 2022, but the car changes haven't been the only excitement that has built within the paddock. WRC's 'silly season' kicked off in a big way and all the key driver moves for 2022 - of which there are many - look set to shake things up

Oct 13, 2021
How joining Finland’s exclusive club was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age Plus

How joining Finland’s exclusive club was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age

By his own admission, the fifth World Rally Championship victory of Elfyn Evans' career in Finland last weekend was the drive of his life. Winning five stages in a row and soaking up huge pressure from the Hyundais on the fastest gravel stages around, the Welshman put in a faultless showing that proved what he is truly made of

Oct 4, 2021
Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant? Plus

Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

Sep 16, 2021
How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains Plus

How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Plus

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Plus

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

Sep 2, 2021