Ostberg on course for podium

Ostberg on course for podiumFrom Citroen Press [ 07/02/2014 ].
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The final few kilometres of yesterday's first leg had given an idea of the potential of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. The three Citroën DS3 WRCs took advantage of the work done since the start of Rally Sweden to continue to make progress and move up the standings. After starting the day in fifth position, Mads Østberg grabbed third overall on SS8. Visibly more comfortable on roads where the frozen gravel was exposed, the Norwegian showed good speed and consistency to carve out a significant advantage over his nearest challengers.

After spending the first day learning about the conditions, Kris Meeke maintained the same pace today. The Northern Irishman cut the gap to the leaders and although he maintained that he was not focussing too much on the result, his sixth place reflected the hard work he had put in.

Second on the road, Khalid Al Qassimi had to deal with especially tricky conditions. Without making any mistakes, he moved up to 18th position.

A long final day awaits the crews still in the race. Tomorrow's closing leg features eight timed stages over a total of 142 kilometres. SS24, Varmullsesen, will be the Power Stage. The rally is due to finish in Karlstad at 5.27pm.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Mads Østberg: "I'm starting to understand where we are losing time compared to the fastest drivers. But it's difficult to find those extra few seconds. I'm trying to change my driving style so I can close the gap. The goal is to keep it up and try and hold onto our position until the end."

Kris Meeke: "The conditions were changing a lot this morning. As more cars came through the stages, the gravel was increasingly exposed under the snow. There was a lot more grip. I was pleased with my consistency, especially as some of the others ran into problems. I'm now sixth overall, and to be honest, that's beyond the expectations I had for this rally."

Khalid Al Qassimi: "We were first on the road today. It was difficult to feel confident. I tried to push a bit more in some sections, but I almost went off. I don't want to take any more risks even though I know I can go faster. If we feel better tomorrow, then we'll push a bit more."

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): "The conditions were especially tough today. Mads upped his pace, whilst leaving a certain margin of safety. This is only his second rally in the Citroën DS3 WRC. Going after one of the top two places would involve taking risks that we feel are too great for his experience in the car. Kris continued to drive according to his feeling. He is racking up the miles in preparation for the races ahead. And that's exactly what we asked him to do before the start."

HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED

SS8 - Lesjöfors 1 (15.00km) - Overall leader Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville stopped on the stage. Although Ogier managed to get underway again after losing around four minutes, Neuville was forced to retire. Mads Østberg finished third on the stage to take the same position in the overall standings. Kris Meeke set the ninth fastest time.

SS9 - Fredriksberg 1 (18.15km) - A stage win for Ogier as he tried to climb his way up the standings. Mikkelsen extended his lead at the front of the rally. Mads Østberg fended off attacks from Mikko Hirvonen and Ott Tanak. Kris Meeke moved up a place, ahead of Pontus Tidemand.

SS10 - Rämmen 1 (22.76km) - Mads Østberg grabbed the third fastest time to extend his lead over his nearest challengers. Tidemand moved back ahead of Kris Meeke in seventh. At the front, Latvala grabbed the lead from Mikkelsen.

SS11 - Hagfors Sprint 1 (1.87km) - Henning Solberg went fastest on this very short stage. Mads Østberg made it to the midday service in third overall, behind Latvala and Mikkelsen. Kris Meeke continued his scrap with Tidemand for seventh place. Khalid Al Qassimi had moved up three positions, ending the morning seventeenth overall.

SS12 - Lesjöfors 2 (15.00km) - The two Citroën DS3 WRCs of Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke finished the stage bunched together, in sixth and seventh respectively. Kubica went off and Hänninen retired. Kris moved up to sixth overall.

SS13 - Fredriksberg 2 (18.15km) - Sébastien Ogier kept his run of stage wins going to move back into the top 10. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke consolidated their positions with consistent performances ahead of the day's longest stage.

SS14 - Rämmen 2 (22.76km) - Mads Østberg went second fastest to moved 16.9 seconds clear of Mikko Hirvonen. Kris Meeke held a similar lead in sixth over his nearest challenger, Pontus Tidemand.

SS15 - Hagfors Sprint 2 (1.87km) - Another second fastest time for Mads Østberg, making up 6.2 seconds on rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala. Seventh best time for Kris Meeke.

SS16 - Karlstad Super Special Stage 2 (1.90km) - Second pass on the Karlstad racecourse. Mikkelsen closed the gap to Latvala. Østberg ended the day third overall, Meeke was sixth and Al Qassimi was eighteenth.