P-G Andersson has driven the perfect opening day of Rally Sweden to build a two-minute advantage at the head of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship for PROTON.
The Satria-Neo S2000 man led after the opening stage, but was forced to give best to hard-charging Skoda driver Pontus Tidemand. Tidemand, making his debut in the SWRC, kept Andersson in his sights throughout the day until he was forced to stop and change a puncture on the eighth stage.
Andersson was consistently the quickest SWRC driver and the Swede, who led this event overall last year, admitted he’d enjoyed his day in the PROTON.
“It’s been a good day,” said Andersson. “We struggled a little bit in the final stage – lots of gravel had come through on the road and we lost the studs from the tyres. We do seem to be struggling for traction, we’re going to have a look at what we can do for the car.
“There was more snow on the road over in Norway today, but there will be more ice around tomorrow when we are back in Sweden. It’s nice to be going home tomorrow, I think we’ll get more cheers from the crowd!”
Tidemand posted two fastest times through the early part of the day and was just 9.2 seconds off Andersson’s lead when he collected a puncture aboard his Skoda.
“I had to stop and change the wheel,” said the disconsolate Norwegian. “It’s very disappointing, but now we will start again, try to score good points and some more fastest times. The car is going well and the event is fantastic.”
SWRC round one winner Craig Breen is second overnight. The Irishman is pleased with his progress in his Fiesta S2000, saying: “I spent this morning getting some confidence in the car and the conditions. I have that, so now I am ready to start pushing harder. It’s a great event, though. The roads weren’t quite so good this afternoon, there was some more gravel coming through.”
Tidemand is third, with Saudi Arabian Yazeed Al Rajhi fourth on his Swedish debut in a Fiesta. Maciej Oleksowicz (Fiesta) is fifth, one place ahead of reigning Production Car world champion Hayden Paddon, who admitted he’d had a troubled day aboard his Skoda Fabia S2000.
Paddon said: “This has been really tough. I’m just not driving the car like I should. I’ve got no base set-up to work from, so we don’t know too much about where we should be with the car. This is also my first time on this event, so I’m struggling a little bit with the conditions as well. It’s a steep learning curve.”
Alister McRae’s return to the SWRC didn’t go quite to plan, either. The Scot landed his PROTON in a third-stage snowbank and will return under Rally 2 regulations tomorrow.
Norwegian Marius Aasen rounds out the top eight in his Fiesta.
PHOTOS: Proton by Paultan.org / Danny Tan and Paddon photo Honza Fronek