In perfect winter conditions, the Estonian was quickest through the 5.69km Vennivaara test, close to the rally base of Rovaniemi, by 0.7sec from Hyundai i20 team-mate Thierry Neuville. Takamoto Katsuta and Pierre Louis Loubet tied in third, a further 3.7sec back.
Kalle Rovanperä set the pace in his Yaris through a misty first run in temperatures a couple of degrees below freezing. Craig Breen then moved top of the timesheets in the second pass in an i20.
The stage became progressively quicker and Tänak closed out the action with the benchmark time in his third and final run. Neuville’s last attempt was also his best, the Belgian recovering after being caught out by a snow bank during his second pass.
Video: Arctic Rally Finland route
“We came quite fast for a very tight left corner,” he told wrc.com. “I didn’t know Elfyn [Evans] had just spun out in front of me and there was a lot of snow everywhere.
“The snow bank which we usually lean on was gone so it just pulled me into the fresh snow and I stuck there and I had to wait for somebody to come to help us. Obviously, no spectators on this rally makes it really challenging when you are stuck in the snow.”
It took more than 20 minutes before he was back on the move, but there was no damage to the i20.
Katsuta, driving a Yaris, and Loubet, in another i20, also set their best times in their final runs, while Breen’s pacy second pass was sufficient to earn the Irishman fifth fastest. Oliver Solberg, making his championship debut in a World Rally Car, was sixth on his first drive with late replacement co-driver Seb Marshall.
Evans was 12th in a similar car and the Welshman explained his error afterwards.
“We just understeered ever so slightly on the entry to a corner. We were on the limit to get away with it but unfortunately it just dragged the front in a little bit. We had to admit defeat in the end and had to accept the spin. It reversed out easily enough in the end. A tricky place,” he said.
Others caught out by the snow included Janne Tuohino, whose Ford Fiesta was stuck for almost 25 minutes, and WRC3 contender Mattias Ekström.
The leading times were:
|1.||Ott TÄNAK||Hyundai i20||02min 35.4sec|
|2.||Thierry NEUVILLE||Hyundai i20||+0.7sec|
|3.||Takamoto KATSUTA||Toyota Yaris||+4.4sec|
|4.||Pierre-Louis LOUBET||Hyundai i20||+4.4sec|
|5.||Craig BREEN||Hyundai i20||+4.5sec|
|6.||Oliver SOLBERG||Hyundai i20||+4.6sec|
|7.||Kalle ROVANPERÄ||Toyota Yaris||+5.1sec|
|8.||Gus GREENSMITH||Ford Fiesta||+5.8sec|
|9.||Sébastien OGIER||Toyota Yaris||+5.9sec|
|10.||Teemu SUNINEN||Ford Fiesta||+7.3sec|
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