SS13: Solberg leads again

Petter Solberg looks set to lead into the third leg of the Swedish Rally after another jaw-dropping performance through the Vargasen stage

SS13: Solberg leads again

The Subaru driver had been fastest on the first running on the stage this morning, moving ahead of Marcus Gronholm in the process. Gronholm then retaliated on the subsequent snowier stages, and then extended his lead from 0.1s to 0.7s after SS12. He had always been wary of Solberg's pace on Vargasen however, and his fears proved well founded as Petter went through the stage 9s faster than Gronholm and retook the lead - despite tyre problems.

"I had completely worn out the tyres on the stage before and I was thinking 'how the hell am I going to do this stage with these tyres?'" said Solberg. "I just changed the differential and did the complete opposite of my normal driving style and it worked. Not bad!"

Solberg now leads Gronholm by 8.3s with just the short superspecial at the Hagfors rallycross track remaining before the cars head for the end of leg service. Having lost the rally lead to Solberg on both passes through Vargasen, Gronholm was cursing the stage afterwards.

"Again on this bloody stage - I hate this one!" he said. "It's not nice at all, I don't like it."

The Vargasen stage is one of the least snow-covered on the rally, with big patches of frozen gravel apparent. The Michelin runners were reaching the finish with few studs left in their tyres, whereas the Pirelli users were retaining their studs but finding that their tyres flexed as they wore out.

Third-placed Sebastien Loeb was quickest on the previous Sundsjon stage but struggled for grip on his Michelins on Vargasen and may now be out of contention.

"It will be difficult," he admitted. "I pushed so hard in the stage before I think I destroyed the tyres."

Gigi Galli went into Vargasen in fourth place but fell behind Markko Martin after damaging his Mitsubishi and losing a minute.

"I think I hit something on the front left," he said. "Something in the transmission might be broken, I don't know."

Also in trouble was Mattias Ekstrom - his Skoda struck by power steering failure. He lost several minutes struggling through both stages 12 and 13 with the problem.

Toshi Arai's lead in the Production category now looks even more secure as his remaining rival Aki Teiskonen hit brake problems on SS12.



Petter Solberg (Subaru Impreza) 2h12m26.0s
Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot 307) 2h12m34.3s
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Xsara) 2h12m50.0s
Markko Martin (Peugeot 307) 2h14m27.2s
Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi Lancer) 2h15m17.6s
Toni Gardemeister (Ford Focus) 2h15m41.0s
Henning Solberg (Ford Focus) 2h15m41.2s
Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi Lancer) 2h15m42.4s
Chris Atkinson (Subaru Impreza) 2h16m04.2s
Janne Tuohino (Skoda Fabia) 2h16m11.7s

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