Rally Sweden Recap

Petter Solberg has broken his string of bad luck on this event, and won his first Rally Sweden, kickstarting his championship campaign. In the end, it was easy for Solberg, with his closest rivals, Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb, retiring on the final leg. The win puts Solberg in a tie for third place in the championship, four points behind current (and surprise) leader Toni Gardemeister. Peugeot’s Markko Martin salvaged the weekend thanks to Gronholm and Loeb, and took second, and Ford’s Gardemeister continued his impressive season with third. Mitsubishi’s Harri Rovanpera was the last of the “regular” factory drivers in the points, followed by Henning Solberg (who was nominated as a points driver for Ford) and Daniel Carlsson, driving a privateer 307.

Biggest surprises? Mitsubishi’s pace. Gigi Galli was in a hunt for a podium place until a few mishaps at the end of leg two (and he later admitted when he was setting scratch times he wasn’t driving flat out) and Rovanpera finished fourth, setting the scratch time on the final stage. This is the second double manufacturer’s points haul for the Japanese marque in as many rallies, so the team’s design to run a limited programme last season seems to have paid off. Also, Toni Gardemeister continues to impress. Though he would have finished only fifth had Loeb and Gronholm not retired, the Finn is showing speed and skill behind the wheel of the Focus. And the biggest disappointment (besides, of course, the retirements of Loeb and Gronholm)? Citroen’s Francois Duval. Duval never found any pace this weekend, and an off damaged his car, dropping over two minutes in a single stage.

The championship heads to Mexico next for the year’s first proper gravel rally. Given the speed shown by a variety of drivers so far this season, it should be a close fight.