ERC – Solberg edges Paddon in high-speed Scandinavian thriller

Oliver Solberg and Hayden Paddon have completed the opening leg of BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia just 3.3sec apart following an action-packed first nine stages of Sweden’s round of the FIA European Rally Championship.

Paddon (BRC Racing Team Hyundai i20 N Rally2) led the pack following his fastest time through the mixed-surface BAUHAUS super special stage on Thursday evening. Although the New Zealander maintained his advantage after SS2, Swede Solberg moved in front on SS3 by 3.1sec aboard his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.

Back-to-back stage wins for Paddon trimmed that gap to 1.4sec at the midday service halt in Karlstad before Solberg responded with the SS6 best time to lead by 2.6sec. 

But with Solberg experiencing the worst of the localised rain on SS7, Paddon headed to the repeat of the Colins stage – complete with the iconic Colin’s Crest jump – 1.3sec off the lead.

While Paddon (pictured below) leapt a rally-best 44 metres, Solberg was 1.1sec quicker, which gave him a margin of 2.4sec starting the day-closing Gårdsjö test. Beating Paddon’s time by a slender 0.9sec through the 12.09-kilometre run ensured Solberg heads the order by 3.3sec in a Pirelli-one two.

“The times are so close and every little gap is important,” Solberg said. “I thought I had left-rear damage for a while [on SS9] but it was just so loose with so many rocks and not easy. The feeling today has not been great, I can’t say I’ve been very impressed today but the fight is close. I think the car will suit the roads better tomorrow and we can have a bit of a push.”

“We were trying to push,” Paddon said. “We know when it gets rough it doesn’t quite suit this car as well so we were trying to not lose too much time. It was rough but it was more the big loose rocks that were the problem rather than the extra ruts. We were pushing and trying and tomorrow should suit us better than today.”

Michelin-equipped Mikko Heikkilä (pictured below) charged into the final podium spot on SS6 and then set the pace on SS7 aboard his Toyota GR Yaris Rally2. He’s 12.7sec behind leader Solberg.

Having dropped precious seconds stalling at the start of SS1, European championship leader Mathieu Franceschi was on a big push throughout the day to the extent he went quickest of all on SS8, a performance that demoted Frank Tore Larsen in battle for fourth. With nine stages run, Franceschi is 4.2sec adrift of Heikkilä.

Toyota-driving Mārtiṇš Sesks held third throughout the morning for Team MRF Tyres but lost out in the SS7 rain. He completed day one in fifth after he moved ahead of Larsen on SS9 with Mads Østberg in seventh aboard his TRT Rally Team Citroën C3 Rally2.

Second fastest on SS2, Karlstad-based Isak Reiersen reached the finish of SS3 with his right-rear tyre off the time after a “big moment” resulted in contact with a rock. He reduced his pace slightly thereafter to hold eighth at the end of leg one. Miko Marczyk, who stalled at the start of SS2, and Eyvind Brynildsen, who reported a damaged left-rear damper, round out the top 10 followed by Andrea Mabellini, Simone Tempestini, Jon Armstrong and Efrén Llarena, the 2022 ERC champion.

Hankook-equipped Filip Mareš demoted Johan Kristoffersson for 15th on SS9 after the multiple World Rallycross champion was delayed by a damaged front-right tyre on SS8.

Petter Solberg, the winner of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship, is 19th on his first international-level start since Wales Rally GB in 2019.

Filip Kohn leads FIA ERC3 and the ERC Fiesta Rally3 Trophy by 3.2sec with Patrik Hallberg on top of the Hankook-shod FIA Junior ERC runners followed by fellow Swedes Mille Johansson and Calle Carlberg.

Saturday’s deciding leg of BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia covers 107.94 competitive kilometres and features two loops of four stages run either side of service in Karlstad. The 5.83-kilometre Ölme stage is up first from 07:42 local time with the points-paying Power Stage due to get under way at 16:05.

Source : Fia