Ott Tänak was quickest out of the blocks on Saturday morning at Rally Sweden as the Estonian won the longest speed test of this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Stage info: SS9
Knon 1, 31.60km
Only drivers with a long memory will recall these roads, some of which were last used in 2003. It’s twisty for the opening 12km as the road initially winds through a forest before becoming increasingly fast, with a blisteringly quick section towards the finish. It’s scenic too, running along the shoreline of Lake Knoånde before the midpoint.
A thin layer of fresh overnight snow covered the roads, but the M-Sport driver sped through the 31.60km in 13min 45.5sec at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta WRC. But Tänak reckoned he still had more in reserve.
“A proper fast stage. It was difficult to see some corners so I didn’t feel so confident. It wasn’t a maximum push but a clean run,” said Tänak, who remained third in the standings.
He was 2.6sec quicker than team-mate Sébastien Ogier. The Frenchman endured the worst of the conditions yesterday as road opener, but with the start order reversed today there was a big smile on his face at the finish.
“You have to be completely committed in here, it’s super fast. We’re enjoying our road position better than yesterday,” said Ogier, who moved ahead of Kris Meeke into fourth.
Rally leader Thierry Neuville was third in his Hyundai i20 Coupe, increasing his lead over Jari-Matti Latvala by 2.5sec but both felt they were too cautious.
“It’s a quick stage and many corners are flat out but I was lifting. It’s the only new stage today so I was lifting a little. I need to keep my lead but I don’t need to extend it,” said Neuville.
It wasn’t a good start for Hayden Paddon who lost nearly 90sec with a power steering problem in his i20 Coupe. “We can’t seem to catch a break this year. The power steering failed at the start and it was impossible to drive,” explained the Kiwi, who slid from sixth to eighth.