Day one: 73.54 miles; 6 stages Weather: overcast/snowing -8 to -1 celsius Sebastien Ogier leads from the start and stays out front in a disjointed day not without problems for the Frenchman. He goes off the road briefly on the morning’s final stage but maintains his lead through a snowy afternoon. The rest of Volkswagen’s attack is blunted. Jari-matti Latvala has broken a driveshaft from Torsby, leaving his Polo R WRC in rear-wheel drive – he later retires with suspension trouble. His team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen has spun in SS7 and admits second is the best he can hope for. As on the opening round last month, Kris Meeke is carrying the fight to Ogier. Sadly for the DS 3 WRC driver, the Monte Carlo analogy doesn’t end there. Another rock, another impact and another retirement from the day. Meeke clips a rock in the line on SS8, breaking the front-right TCA. Hyundai’s Dani Sordo arrives at the end of the opening stage with high water temperature; Thierry Neuville has a failed rear differential two stages later. This is looking like a toughies for the new i20 WRCS… until Hayden Paddon steps up. Kiwi Paddon has turned in an exceptional performance – notably quickest through Rojden 2 – to move into an overnight second. Mads Ostberg, Ott Tanak, Sordo and Mikkelsen are all within 15 seconds of the front in a raging battle for the provisional runner-up spot.
End of day one: 1 Ogier/ Ingrassia 1h03m10.6s; 2 Paddon/ Kennard +26.9s; 3 Ostberg/ Floene +33.7s; 4 Tanak/ Molder +34.8s; 5 Sordo/ Marti +38.2s; 6 Mikkelsen/jaeger +42.0s.
Day two: 57.32 miles; 5 stages
snowing/overcast -6 to 0 celsius Ogier is putting everything on the line to keep his name at the top of the timesheets. The Frenchman comes close to oblivion a couple of times, but keeps the Polo dirty-side-down and on the road with a sensational display of driving. Paddon is still second, despite real potential for a possible maiden win. He’s scorched through Vargasen to take 24s out of Ogier, cutting the gap to eight. The leader’s wallowing in deep snow at the front of the field, worried for the potential of more of the same in Rammen. The conditions are completely different. Second it is for Paddon. With 25s in hand over third-placed Ostberg, Paddon looks good for second place and it’s a similar story for Mads on the bottom step of the provisional podium – the M-sport driver has eked out 25s of his own from Mikkelsen. The Volkswagen-driving Norwegian briefly ran in third place after second quickest on the morning’s opener, but gives best to the Fiesta RS WRC for the rest of the day. Tanak ends a trouble-free day 24s behind Mikkelsen with Sordo the same again behind him. It’s an eerily similar set of gaps coming out of a pretty miserable and muddy superspecial at the Karlstad trotting track.
End of day two: 1 Ogier/ Ingrassia 1h52m04.7s; 2 Paddon/ Kennard +17.1s; 3 Ostberg/ Floene +42.3s; 4 Mikkelsen/jaeger +1h07.4s; 5 Tanak/ Molder +1m31.6s; 6 Sordo/ Marti +1m56.3s