Rallying – Suninen shines on first day in Sweden

Teemu Suninen and Markko Salminen of Finland in Ford Fiesta WRC during day 2 of the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Sweden 2019, in Karlstad February 15, 2019. TT News Agency/Micke Fransson via REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Finnish driver Teemu Suninen led after the first day of Rally Sweden on Friday while championship leader Sebastien Ogier retired his Citroen after getting stuck in snow.

M-Sport Ford driver Suninen ended the longest day of the rally 2.0 seconds clear of Estonian Ott Tanak in a Toyota, with Hyundai’s Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen third and a 17.8 seconds off the pace.

“We’ve done a really good job, particularly in staying away from mistakes,” said the 25-year-old after two stage wins on a tricky first leg that was mainly held across the border in Norway.

It was the first time he had led a round of the world championship.

Toyota’s Finnish hope Jari-Matti Latvala saw his hopes of victory end when he got stuck in snow and spent 25 minutes digging the car out.

Ogier, who won the opening round in Monaco with his new team, retired in the afternoon’s sixth stage when his car clipped a snow bank. They will rejoin on Saturday.

“We had a good first loop this morning but we knew that the second loops here are always very tricky, especially when you are first on the road,” said the Frenchman, a six-times world champion.

“I only had a slight impact with a snow bank but we ended up stuck. With no fans nearby, we had no chance of getting going again.”

Finland’s former double world champion Marcus Gronholm, a five-times winner in Sweden, made a guest appearance nine years after his last race in the WRC and at the age of 51 but retired his Toyota after hitting a snow bank.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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