Ott Tänak won two of Friday morning’s three winter road speed tests at Rally Sweden to lead the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship in a Toyota Yaris.
Stage info: SS3/4
Svullrya 1, 24.88km
It is fast and flowing from the start with plenty of inviting corners to challenge drivers. It contains a mix of wide flowing roads and narrower forest tracks, while the big Furumo jumps just before the midpoint throw cars high into the air. Driven in this direction for the first time in 2017.
Röjden 1, 18.10km
A classic stage used many times in national rallies. It starts in Sweden and crosses into Norway for 12km before returning to Sweden again. The stage offers a mix of fast and slower roads, with few junctions but an exceptionally tricky jump in the middle. Driven in the same format as last year but with a new 1.8km section at the finish.
He made the most of perfect snow and ice-covered roads across the border in Norway to follow fastest time in the opening Hof-Finnskog special stage with another in the 18.10km Röjden to lead by 5.5sec.
“Conditions are really good so I have to take the best out of it. Some of the nicest Sweden conditions for now but I expect the second loop will be completely different. Let’s see what we can do,” said the Estonian.
Leading the pursuit was Teemu Suninen, the Finn fastest in the middle Svullrya test in a Ford Fiesta. “I have a good feeling - which can be dangerous!” he joked. “I just need to continue like this and avoid mistakes.”
He had a tenth of a second in hand over Jari-Matti Latvala’s Yaris. Latvala, making a record 197th WRC start, was driving too aggressively in places but there were no errors from the Finn.
Despite temperatures hovering a couple of degrees above freezing, the forest roads had a strong ice base. With little fresh snow on the surface, the early starters were not handicapped by ploughing a clean line.
Second in the start order Thierry Neuville and road opener Sébastien Ogier took advantage of the clean conditions to hold fourth and fifth. Neuville trailed Latvala by 0.4sec with Ogier a further 8.4sec back in a Citroën C3.
“I wasn’t happy with the settings,” said Hyundai i20 driver Neuville. “It was very, very bumpy and I was jumping around like a kangaroo!”
Esapekka Lappi was sixth in another C3, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, who completed Röjden with damage to the front left wing of his i20 after sliding into the snow.
Kris Meeke was eighth, the Briton believing he was not ‘adventurous’ enough in his Yaris. He headed Sébastien Loeb, who lacked confidence in his i20, with Elfyn Evans completing the leaderboard in a Fiesta.
Marcus Grönholm’s day came to a premature end on his first WRC start for nine years. After spinning his Yaris in both Hof-Finnskog and Svullrya, the Finn retired after plunging down a bank in Röjden.
Pontus Tidemand dropped time with a suspected sticking throttle in his Fiesta. Lorenzo Bertelli spun twice, and limped to the end of Röjden with his Fiesta in safety mode after snow blocked the radiator and the engine temperature soared.