SS11: Tänak torment for Teemu
Ott Tänak held a comfortable half-minute lead at Rally Sweden after an absorbing Saturday morning at this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Stage info: SS11
Vargåsen 1, 14.21km
Rally Sweden’s best-known test, Vargåsen is famous for Colin’s Crest – a blind jump 12.8km from the start where fans gather in their thousands. Eyvind Brynildsen set a new record in 2016 with a 45 metre jump, and the biggest leap this season will receive the award named in memory of the late Colin McRae. It begins with an extremely fast 1.8km section where the brake pedal will not be required, before becoming more flowing and full of crests and curves.
After regaining top spot from overnight leader Teemu Suninen and then watching his advantage widen when the Finn made a mistake, Tänak completed the loop of three stages with a 33.8sec lead in his Toyota Yaris.
He took no risks on the snow and ice-covered roads of the morning’s final Vargåsen test with ninth fastest time. “It’s been a good morning. The first two stages we were going at a good pace, the last one was a bit more steady, but still a good rhythm,” said the relaxed Estonian.
Andreas Mikkelsen was second but the Norwegian was not totally happy with the morning and contemplating changes to his Hyundai i20. “It’s good fun but I would like to go faster, the top speed is not there. Maybe we can do some changes back in service,” he explained.
The battle for the final podium place intensified with every stage. Elfyn Evans struggled for speed in his Ford Fiesta and his grip on third became increasingly tenuous. He returned to the Torsby service park with just 1.1sec in hand over a hard-charging Thierry Neuville.
The Belgian climbed from an overnight seventh and second fastest through Vargåsen in his i20 relegated Esapekka Lappi by 1.0sec. Lappi felt he was driving well in his Citroën C3 but was frustrated that the pace was lacking.
Kris Meeke completed the quartet in sixth, a further 6.0sec back in his Yaris and 16.3sec ahead of Sébastien Loeb, who was another frustrated by his speed.
“The pace notes were slow and me too. In the end, not a good morning. We wrote the notes when there was fresh snow on the ground and I need to get used to how these cars with more aero behave in the high-speed corners,” said the Frenchman.
A disappointed Suninen was closing on Loeb in eighth after his unscheduled trip into a snowbank, with Pontus Tidemand and WRC 2 leader Ole Christian Veiby completing the leaderboard.
Quickest through Vargåsen was Sébastien Ogier, the Frenchman restarting after yesterday’s retirement and enjoying the perfect snow and ice conditions in the forests which suited the early starters. It was his second consecutive fastest time.
SS9/10: Tänak regains lead
Suninen mistake proves costly
Friday in Sweden: Suninen shines bright
Finn leads WRC fixture for first time
WRC 2 in Sweden: Clean run carries Østberg to Pro lead
Norwegians head both WRC 2 categories