Jari-Matti Latvala snatched the lead of Rally Sweden after relegating Toyota Yaris team-mate Ott Tänak in Friday afternoon’s opening speed test.
Stage info: SS5
Hof-Finnskog 2, 21.26km
Narrow and winding roads in hilly areas mix with long straights and open landscapes, bringing all the challenges of a winter rally to one stage. It is fast throughout with plenty of quick corners but several bumps which will require care. Used for the first time two years ago and driven in the same format this time round.
The Finn, starting a record 197th WRC event, was second fastest through Hof-Finnskog to climb ahead of both Tänak and fellow countryman Teemu Suninen and lead by 1.8sec.
“There was very high grip in some places and it was slushy in others. That wasn’t maximum attack but I had a clean run,” said Latvala.
Suninen was third fastest in his Ford Fiesta to retain second place as early leader Ott Tänak dropped to third, but only 3.7sec adrift of Latvala.
Conditions were very different from this morning’s opening pass. The strong ice base had given way to a softer surface with plenty of gravel, and the early starters struggled as they ‘cleaned’ the slush from the road to leave a quicker line for those behind.
Road opener Sébastien Ogier dropped almost 30sec to plummet from fifth to seventh in his Citroën C3, while Thierry Neuville fared worse. The Belgian, second in the start order, twice spun his Hyundai i20 to drop from fourth to sixth in the standings.
Andreas Mikkelsen, driving an i20, and Yaris pilot Kris Meeke profited by climbing to fourth and fifth.
Elfyn Evans showed the benefits of a lower start position. The Welshman was fastest in his Ford Fiesta and moved up two places to eighth, aided by a big spin for Esapekka Lappi.
“I got caught by a short right-hander in fifth gear. I hit a bank and almost rolled,” explained the C3 driver.