Fri 10 Feb 2023

Consistent Tanak seizes Swedish advantage

Different drivers won all three of Friday morning’s Rally Sweden speed tests, but it was Ott Tänak who emerged in front after a fast and furious opening loop.

Ironically, Tänak is yet to win a stage at this second round - or this season - but consistency paid dividends for the Estonian driver, who leapfrogged overnight leader Kalle Rovanperä after claiming a brace of top-three stage times aboard his M-Sport Ford Puma.

It’s the first time the British team has led an FIA World Rally Championship rally since last year’s Repco Rally New Zealand. However, with just 2.1sec in hand over a charging Craig Breen, Tänak has no room to relax.

"We probably should be faster,” mused the leader, suggesting there is room for improvement in the afternoon. “It should be a lot better, so let's see what the second loop will bring. At the moment [the conditions] not so easy, that's for sure."

Tänak’s ascent to the top of the leaderboard was helped by the fact that rival Rovanperä opened the road, sweeping a clean line in the loose snow.

Breen, making his second debut for Hyundai Motorsport, started even further back in the road order and used the situation to his advantage. A blistering run through Brattby’s opener elevated the Irishman from seventh to second overall, although he was unable to pull any more time from Tänak on stages three and four.

Rounding off the podium, and only 2.0sec further back, was Breen’s i20 N team-mate Esapekka Lappi. The Finn felt he had more to give on the high-speed stages but also remained wary of making any silly mistakes.

Rovanperä ended the morning just 4.7sec adrift of the lead with his Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Takamoto Katsuta 2.4sec behind in fifth overall. The latter had arguably one of the best mornings of his WRC career and even posted the fastest time at Botsmark.

More than 15 seconds off the pace was Elfyn Evans, also driving a Toyota. The Welshman said he struggled to find the confidence and the balance required to fight at the front, while seventh-placed Thierry Neuville battled both the flu and understeer in his i20.

Pierre-Louis Loubet, starting his second-ever Rally Sweden, brought his Puma back to service with eighth overall in front of WRC2 leader Oliver Solberg, who headed Italian privateer Lorenzo Bertelli.

  • Full coverage from Rally Sweden is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.
More news
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM