SS2: Tänak dominant

Ott Tänak was a convincing winner of Friday morning’s snowy opening stage at Rally Sweden to stretch his overnight lead in this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Stage info: SS2

Hof-Finnskog 1, 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 12 months ago and driven in the same format this time round.

Fresh snow made conditions difficult for the early starters, but Tänak shrugged those problems aside to stop the clocks 6.1sec quicker than Andreas Mikkelsen and widen his advantage to 6.8sec.

“There’s a lot of loose snow on the top, especially at the beginning. It was a big job but on the ice the car feels good. Ogier’s lines are all over the place, he’s pushing a lot harder than me,” said the Toyota Yaris driver, who followed the road opening Frenchman into the stage.

Mikkelsen finished with the rear bumper missing from his Hyundai i20, but the Norwegian edged fellow countryman Mads Østberg by 0.1sec. However, the Citroën C3 driver headed Mikkelsen by 0.2sec in the overall standings.

Thierry Neuville was fourth fastest and fourth overall in his i20 but the Belgian admitted conditions were tricky. “I didn’t have a perfect stage. In places there was more grip and suddenly you lose it. Not a perfect stage for visibility, I was looking for the road a lot,” he said.

Toyota duo Esapekka Lappi and Jari-Matti Latvala were fifth and sixth, their positions reversed in the overall standings. Lappi’s disappointment was evident as he threw his driving gloves down at the finish, while Latvala struggled for confidence in the loose snow.

Ogier was 10th and resigned to his fate as road opener. “It was difficult, especially as there was no snow plough in the stage. It’s very tricky and I had a couple of moments already,” said the Ford Fiesta driver.

Craig Breen overshot a junction in his C3 and the Irishman was seventh fastest.

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