There was a shock overnight leader in the first day of the Rally Sweden in the World Rally Championship as Pontus Tidemand and Emil Axelsson stunned as they powered to the fastest time of the opening super special stage in their Ford Fiesta RRC.
The Karlstad’s Färjestad Trotting Course was the venue for their impressive start, and with debate continuing over the merits of starting early in the order, the duo powered through to take the early advantage in Sweden.
M-Sport supremo Malcolm Wilson believed that the shock lead couldn’t have been more ideal for the duo or the fans.
“I don’t think there could have been a more popular overnight leader than the one we have here tonight. Pontus [Tidemand] and Emil [Axelsson] made the perfect start. To beat the entire world rally car field – regardless of road position – is no mean feat and I hope tonight’s result spurs them on as they battle for the win in WRC 2.”
Their feat was all the more impressive considering the luck of team-mate Elfyn Evans, who could only muster 22nd in the rankings at the end of the stage.
“We had too much wheelspin off the line,” said Evans. “It’s a tricky stage so I’m happy to have made it through unscathed and now our focus turns to tomorrow when the rally really gets underway.”
It was better news for the other M-Sport driver, as Ott Tanak made a solid start on his way to sixth place. The M-Sport man took solace from a clean start as he looks to improve in tomorrow’s stages.
“It’s a tricky little stage and quite slippery in places, but it felt good and there were no surprises,” said Tanak. “I’m happy with that and now we can look forward to tomorrow’s stages.”
Following the perfect start to their home event, Tidemand and Axelsson will now focus on securing victory in the FIA WRC 2.
“I really enjoyed that – I always do,” he said. “Everything felt good and we couldn’t have made a more perfect start to our home event. It was great to see so many spectators out supporting us, and I think we gave the home crowd something to cheer about tonight!”