To doubt Volkswagen and their ability to quickly match the pace of the frontrunning team(s) was never really an option. They have nice little budget and they’re not afraid to use it, which is sort of the way to go if you want to achieve anything in this sport. Cheap solutions and half-baked ideas are not recommended, unless you just want to be there, and nothing more.
But Volkswagen wants more, otherwise I doubt they would throw their money into that much testing and development as they did in 2012. And the results are here. Well, not exaclty, because we only have one rally behind us, but Volkswagen is proving to be fast on snow as well. Sebastien Ogier was fastest on todays qualifying stage, and will get to pick his desired starting position first.
It would be silly to assume that pace of this short stage can be used to judge the overall rally pace, but it’s a good indication nonetheless. And thus I am quite happy to report that my favourite for the win in Sweden, Mads Ostberg, was second in his Qatar M-Sport WRT car, almost 1 second down on Ogier, while Mikko Hirvonen, the fastest of the Citroëns, completed the top three.
Pontus Tidemand stormed the stage to take fourth, closely followed by Juho Hanninen and Jari-Matti Latvala. Further down the list was Thierry Neuvile ahead of Sebastien Loeb, etc.
One thing is sure, though, competition is super tough and we are hopefully in for a great rally!