Home favourite Pontus Tidemand produced a convincing opening leg display to lead WRC 2 at Rally Sweden on Friday night.
He won five of the seven speed tests in the remote and frozen forests of Sweden and Norway to open a comfortable 45.1sec advantage in his Skoda Fabia R5 over Finn Teemu Suninen. Ole Christian Veiby completed an all-Nordic top three a further 13.7sec behind.
Veiby led initially in his similar Fabia R5, before Tidemand reeled off five fastest times in six stages to pull clear.
“Everything has worked well – the car, driver, co-driver and tyres,” said Tidemand. “There have been no mistakes and I’m just trying to stay fully concentrated, that’s the best way.”
Suninen admitted to a few minor mistakes at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R5 initially, but the Finn overhauled Veiby this afternoon. Both won a stage each, but Veiby conceded a handful of seconds when he spun near the finish of SS5.
Eric Camilli was fourth in another Fiesta R5, 64.0sec behind Veiby. The Frenchman lost time after stalling his engine and yielded more valuable seconds after being held up by another driver who had punctured.
Britain’s Gus Greensmith was fifth with Emil Bergkvist completing the top six in a Citroën DS 3 R5, despite incurring a 10sec penalty for checking into a control late.
Several drivers lost time with punctures, including Jaroslaw Koltun, Hiroki Arai and Eyvind Brynildsen, while engine problems meant Koltun struggled to the end of the day nearly 15 minutes off the lead.
Retirements included Alexey Lukyanuk, whose Fiesta R5 was stranded in two-wheel drive, the similar car of Anders Grøndal with a variety of mechanical problems, and Pierre-Louis Loubet, whose DS 3 R5 went out with engine troubles.
Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Rally Sweden.