Surprise package Ott Tanak completed just 70km of snow testing before delivering the drive of the day to finish today’s opening leg of Rally Sweden in fourth.
The Estonian pilot has not competed on a WRC event since the final round of the 2012 campaign. However, he was the only driver capable of matching the dominant Volkswagen trio and claimed a stage victory in his Ford Fiesta RS.
“I didn’t expect that, it was an absolutely fantastic day,” he admitted. “It’s been a long break from the WRC so I was really happy to find a good rhythm so quickly and easily. I tested for half a day and about 70km, which wasn’t perfect but was OK.”
Tanak, who will mix three rallies in a World Rally Car with a full WRC 2 programme this season, was 12th in the start order but was unsure how much of a benefit a low start position proved.
“It was so-so,” he said. “Four of the six stages were icy and first on the road was good because otherwise the ice was carved out and the surface became loose. But in the forests where there were places with loose snow on top, it was better to be further back. I think we took the best out of the day."
Tanak said he would take no risks tomorrow, which covers faster, more flowing roads.
“Tomorrow stages are traditional and all the top drivers know them well so it will be more difficult. But we have a good start position, the car set-up felt OK and my rhythm is good, so why not carry on like today?” he added.