P-G Andersson has taken an early lead in Rally Sweden by winning the Karlstad superspecial that opened the event this evening.
This is set to be a one-off World Rally Championship appearance for Andersson, who relied on donations from supporters to get into a Ford for the season-opener before focusing on his Proton Intercontinental Rally Challenge drive for the rest of the year. But after winning the opening stage, and knowing that he will start tomorrow's potentially very snowy stages in an advantageous 11th place in the running order, Andersson is feeling very confident.
"It's good, it's good. We should be in the top five at least after the first day," he said. "I was taking it very, very steadily and carefully around here and I didn't know if I was driving too slowly or not. Obviously not."
Works Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala was second, 0.6sec slower than Andersson, with Petter Solberg (Solberg Citroen) a cautious third, eager to avoid a repeat of his costly spin on this stage 12 months ago.
Mikko Hirvonen was fourth, and though he only lost 1.0sec to Andersson, he was troubled by a gearbox glitch.
"It was OK, but we had a little problem with the gear change," he said. "It didn't work like it should, so we lost time with that."
Factory Citroen duo Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier drove conservatively to fifth and seventh, split by Stobart Ford's new signing Mads Ostberg.
Kimi Raikkonen was 10th in the Ice 1 Citroen, just behind Production class leaders Anders Grondahl and Patrik Flodin.
The only front runner to hit trouble on the stage was Stobart's Henning Solberg, who lost 15sec with a spin, leaving him 32nd at present.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. P-G Andersson Ford 1m39.7s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 0.6s
3. Petter Solberg Citroen + 0.9s
4. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 1.0s
5. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 1.1s
6. Mads Ostberg Ford + 1.6s
7. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 2.3s
8. Anders Grondahl Subaru + 5.9s
9. Patrik Flodin Subaru + 6.0s
10. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen + 6.1s