Hej! We just returned from our daily dose of Rally Sweden, and are happy to report that PG Andersson is still leading the S-WRC category that Proton Motorsports is contesting in. After 16 stages, the Swede leads Craig Breen in his Ford Fiesta S2000 by 2:14.4, while Pontus Tidemand in his Skoda Fabia S2000 is a further 1:58.2 behind. PG is 14th overall, behind the WRC boys.

His Proton teammate Alister McRae, who is of course the 2011 FIA APRC champ, is seventh in the S-WRC category. As detailed in our previous report, the Scotsman, who last drove in this ice and snow rally in 2004, went wide in SS3 and hit soft snow, landing his car in the ditch. That incident put him out of contention but the Super Rally format allows him to continue running, and potentially collect points for the team.

Our day started very early here in Karlstad, the rally base. It was still dark when we set out to catch some live action, and two hours later we arrived at Sagen to watch SS12, the first of today’s two stages on this 14.23 km stretch.

The hike up the hill to watch the cars zoom past was tough, not so much because of the cold (temperature is still stubbornly stuck below zero C), but because of the thick layer of soft powdery snow. It’s climbing on shifting ground, and everytime a foot is buried in snow, some ice gets in the shoe – wet feet is not good!

But we found a rather good vantage point, allowing us to see the cars come in the frame sideways for an S, before powering out past the cheering crowd. You get a better view on TV, but the atmosphere at the stages is amazing and can’t be replicated.

It feels like the whole of Scandinavia is here for Rally Sweden, and the fans are loud and jolly, some helped by the potent drinks they bring to keep warm. Bonfires, singing and red cheeked small children complete the camp party like scene.

From Sagen, we headed to Hagfors Airport, which serves as a major Service Park for the rally. It’s here where the team trucks and tents are at, and many fans packed the place to catch a glimpse of the drivers and cars. At the Proton tent, PG Andersson came in for service after the Hagfors Sprint stage in the city.

In between his pasta and coffee, he told us that the car was sliding too much, and although spectators love it, too much sideways isn’t the fastest way.

PG felt it immediately since he started the day. “The studs disappeared already on the first stage. Something makes it spin on the top and breaks the studs and makes it very slippery. Now we have to save on the tyres, but except that, everything is OK,” he said. The reason behind the trouble was ice build up in the dampers, making them sticky.

A set of new Reiger dampers fitted, and off he went, after some food in the stomach of course. Alister McRae came in for service too, but it was so much more relaxed on his side of the garage. It’s important to keep going though, as there’s always a chance someone might drop out.

At the front of the pack, ex Ford teammates Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala are having a friendly duel of their own. Hirvonen, now Seb Loeb’s teammate at Citroen, came into Hagfors service 18.6 seconds behind Ford’s Latvala. Another popular figure and branding master (he has his own merchandise and booth) Petter Solberg is in third.

World champ and living legend Loeb is down in sixth after SS16. The Citroen DS3 WRC driving Frenchman is not having a great rally that’s for sure. “It’s not so fun to drive in this situation, but it’s like that. We have to try and score some points. You cannot win every time,” the man said.

Below are the pics I took from SS12 Sagen and Hagfors service park. It’s not just car shots – I’m hoping you can have a “feel” of the rally while enjoying the Malaysian weather (yes, I do miss the heat). More updates tomorrow.