Ott Tänak won all three Saturday morning speed tests at Rally Sweden to close on second-placed Jari-Matti Latvala.
Stage info: SS10/11
SS10: Hagfors 1, 15.87km
New name but familiar roads – Hagfors was called Värmullsåsen and driven as the live TV Power Stage in 2016. After negotiating a series of fast, flowing corners, competitors burst into view in front of thousands of fans on the Värmullsåsen ski slope. A set of tight downhill hairpin bends leads into a big jump before the finish at the bottom of the hill on the edge of Hagfors.
SS11: Vargåsen 1, 14.27km
Rally Sweden’s best-known test, Vargåsen is famous for Colin’s Crest – a blind jump 12.8km from the start where fans gather in their thousands. Eyvind Brynildsen set a new record last year with a 45 metre jump, and the biggest leap this season will receive the award named in memory of the late Colin McRae. It starts on a narrow and twisty road but becomes wider and more flowing. It’s shorter this year but with a new 900 metre section at the end last used in 2000.
After victory in the ultra-fast Knon opener, the third-placed Estonian was quickest through Hagfors and Vargåsen to narrow the gap to 9.2sec.
The Ford Fiesta driver edged out rally leader Thierry Neuville by a tenth of a second in Hagfors, with Latvala 2.7sec off the pace. He clawed back a further 3.4sec in Vargåsen to leave Latvala feeling the pressure.
“I’ve been pushing very hard. Conditions are better because I’m not early in the running order. The grip is consistent and we’re in a big battle with Jari-Matti. It needs to be perfect and so far we’ve done a really clean job,” said Tänak.
Latvala (below) rued his decision to take two spare wheels in his Toyota Yaris. “I had a really nice run, I can’t do better,” said the Finn. “I made a mistake taking two spares when everyone else took one. I’m carrying too much weight at the back and losing time in the long corners.”
Neuville eased through both stages in the top three times and returned to the Torsby service park with a 32.8sec lead over Latvala in his Hyundai i20 Coupe. “With our lead we took it a bit more steady. I didn’t really jump over Colin’s Crest, I didn’t want to risk anything, we’re controlling it,” he said.
Sébastien Ogier was fourth and pulling away from Kris Meeke’s Citroën C3, the Ulsterman happy with his rhythm but disappointed with the times.
Dani Sordo completed the top six ahead of Craig Breen. The Irishman had a mistake-free morning following yesterday’s errors and his confidence was improving ‘step by step’.
Elfyn Evans, Stéphane Lefebvre and Hayden Paddon completed the leaderboard, the Kiwi losing another two minutes with no power steering in his i20 Coupe. “With these wider cars it’s like wrestling a 400lb lion – and I’m coming off second best!” he said.
• This afternoon’s SS12 Knon has been cancelled. Following this morning’s initial pass, organisers said the repeat would be scrapped due to safety reasons after analysing the average speeds and on recommendations from the FIA.
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