Jari-Matti Latvala delivered a crushing blow to Ott Tänak with a blistering performance through Sunday morning’s opening speed test at Rally Sweden to stretch his overnight lead to more than 10sec.
Stage info: SS16
Likenäs 1, 21.19km
Likenäs is a Rally Sweden classic dating back to the 1970s but it has never been driven in this direction. It starts just before Ambjörby’s motor stadium bowl, but then it is down to proper business on twisty, but fast roads. Crests, dips, bumps – Likenäs has everything and it’s a stage the drivers will love.
They began the short final leg split by 3.8sec, but Latvala blasted through the Likenäs special stage 7.1sec faster than an unhappy Tänak. It left the Finn with a 10.9sec lead in his Toyota Yaris with two more tests remaining before this afternoon’s finish.
“I’m amazed,” he said. “I have a very good feeling with the car but I didn’t expect the split times to be that good. Miikka (co-driver Anttila) and I are so relaxed.
“Last night I had a very good talk with Tommi Mäkinen. He told me to focus on the road and my driving, to forget about the set-up and just go out and drive!”
Tänak was worried about his Ford Fiesta. “I’m not happy at all in the slow sections. The car seems to want to spin all the time. I need to speak to our engineers,” said the Estonian.
Sébastien Ogier’s hopes of intruding on the victory battle ended when he spun his Fiesta at the opening corner. “A stupid mistake,” he said. "I cut and caught some fresh snow on the inside and spun. I took it easy afterwards because I knew it was over.
“It’s a shame. I wanted to push this morning even though I knew it would be hard to catch 16sec,” added the Frenchman, who conceded 27.0sec but remained third.
Elfyn Evans emerged with an ill-sounding engine in his Fiesta. The Welshman dropped a minute and although he was still sixth, Hayden Paddon moved his Hyundai i20 Coupe within challenging distance.