It’s back to the hotel after an entertaining podium ceremony at Rally Sweden. Held at the main square of Karlstad, the ceremony attracted a large crowd, and as usual, everyone joined in the fun, from white haired seniors to blonde teenage girls – the few near me nudged each other in excitement when good looking Thierry Neuville drove up the ramp!
If you missed our previous live reports, after 24 stages over four days, Proton’s PG Andersson has won the S-WRC category ahead of Irishman Craig Breen with a 3:35.8 cushion.
Breen, in a Ford Fiesta S2000, was the man who inherited the class win at Monte Carlo, where PG’s Neo caught fire on the final day. Pontus Tidemand and his Skoda Fabia S2000 was a further 1:13.8 behind.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to finally do it with Proton. We had no real problems from start to finish, although we made a few set-up changes to get the best out of the car. Today we just looked after our advantage and concentrated on bringing our car safely to the finish,” he said.
In the WRC, it was a battle between the Finns and ex-Ford teammates Mikko Hirvonen and Jari Matti Latvala all weekend, and it was the current Ford man who came out tops despite a late puncture. It is the 50th WRC win for Ford and M-Sport since they joined forces in 1997.
Also, Finns have been dominating this “Scandinavian Rally” since Marcus Gronholm won in 2006. Hirvonen, who is Seb Loeb’s teammate at Citroen this year, won the past two editions, so he missed out on a rare hattrick.
“I think I need to get to hospital to check my heart rate. It’s incredible how exciting this sport can get. We had a good lead on Saturday night, but then it changed like a thunderstorm and we only had an eight-second lead at the end. I knew Mikko would push and we really had to go hard, but then we managed to take another four seconds on the penultimate stage, so we could breathe a little bit!” Latvala said.
“To win here for the second time felt very special; the feeling now is just a big relief,” he added. From what we saw earlier at SS22 Lesjofors, I fully believe the relief.
The easy going but hard driving Latvala also joked that after Monte Carlo, where he retired, the great Ari Vatanen told him that he is “like a young Ari Vatanen” but now he needed to stay on the road. Looks like the advice was well taken!
Here are my pics of the rally royalty from the podium ceremony; from Loeb to Solberg, they’re all there. Credit for the first pic of this post goes to Mr. G from Proton Motorsports.