Sebastien Ogier led from start to finish to secure his third Rally Sweden victory, this victory preserves his maximum points start to the 2016 Fia World Rally Championship. The reigning world champion drove his Volkswagen Polo R in the Karlstad-based snow and ice rally to add to his 2013 and 2015 triumphs. The road to victory demanded a herculean effort from the three-time world champions, for which Volkswagen was rewarded with its eleventh win in a row and 36th triumph in 41 rallies.
A big thaw before the start threatened the season’s only pure winter rally as the frozen gravel roads turned to mud. By the time the cold weather returned, nine of the 21 speed tests in Sweden and Norway had been axed, but up to 10cm of snow and temperatures as low as -10˚C ensured the event went ahead.
Ogier’s dominance was challenged during Saturday’s second leg when he had to sweep fresh snow from the roads to create a cleaner line for those behind. His half-minute lead was slashed to less than 10sec by Hayden Paddon before he reasserted his authority.
“Two wins from the first two rallies – it can’t get any better. Yesterday was a little bit too crazy and I took risks like I had never done in my life,” said Ogier, who survived a massive sixth gear slide. “Winning in Sweden again is an incredible feeling. I just love this rally. The conditions were far from ideal at the start of the week after the thawing and all the rain, which makes it all the more pleasing that we eventually had a really good, wintery Rally Sweden. Yesterday, we probably had to take the greatest risk of our career in order to win. It paid off, and I am just really happy.”
New Zealand’s Paddon matched his career-best result on his debut in Hyundai’s new i20 and became the first non-European driver to finish on the Sweden podium.
Haddon survived a late scare after hitting a wooden post metres from the finish of the last stage. The impact damaged the radiator and Paddon and co-driver John Kennard filled a small hole to stem a fluid leak before driving cautiously on the 85km liaison section to the finish.
Mads Østberg completed the podium in a Ford Fiesta RS, 25.8sec behind Paddon and 15.2sec ahead of fellow Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen ran as high as second but a time-consuming spin on Saturday ended his podium hopes.
Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo completed the top six in a Fiesta RS and i20 respectively, a front left puncture ending the latter’s top three challenge. Henning Solberg and Craig Breen, driving Citroën’s DS 3 for the first time, were next up with WRC 2 winner Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen completing the leaderboard.
The championship heads to gravel for the first time next month when León hosts Rally Guanajuato Mexico between the 3rd and the 6th of March.
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Sweden – Final Results
1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, 1h 59m 47.4s
2. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 29.8s
3. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 55.6s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (N/N), Volkswagen, + 1m 10.8s
5. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 1m 50.7s
6. Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 2m 24.0s
7. Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor (N/A), Ford, + 2m 40.0s
8. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL/GB), Citroën, + 2m 44.6s
9. Elfyn Evans/Craig Parry (GB/GB), Ford, + 5m 17.0s
10. Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (S/S), Škoda, + 5m 31.7s