Sat 11 Feb 2023

Sweden battle intensifies as Breen and Tänak lock horns

Craig Breen was unable to widen his advantage over Ott Tänak, despite outperforming his rival on two out of Saturday morning’s three stages at Rally Sweden.

Impressive runs over the opening pair of snowy speed tests saw Breen pull 5.7sec clear of his M-Sport Ford rival, but a lack of experience on the closing Sävar stage undid the Irishman’s hard work.

By dropping 2.7sec to Tänak over the 17.28km test, Breen was pretty much back to where he started the day - just 3.0 clear at the top.

"Unfortunately, it's one of those instances where I never got to do this stage last year and this was my first time discovering it,” the Hyundai i20 N driver explained. “There were places I was a little too cautious and hesitant, but it's fine.

“The car worked well on the second pass yesterday, so I'm absolutely full of confidence," Breen added, feeling optimistic about today’s four remaining stages.

Tänak admitted to feeling uncomfortable behind the wheel of his Puma, although the twistier characteristics of the final test did seem more suited to the car. He heads into this afternoon’s second pass 14.0sec clear of Esapekka Lappi.

Lappi wasn’t feeling fully satisfied about his morning, though, as overnight set-up tweaks did more harm than good to the handling on is i20. The Finn plans to revert to his Friday set-up for the next loop.

Another 10.3sec behind was Kalle Rovanperä, who fought with understeer after overnight suspension alterations didn't work in his favour. Despite his frustrations, the Finn did manage to seize fourth overall from Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans on SS10.

Evans’ confidence was lacking, and he leaked time to those around him. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville - winner of SS9 - piled on the pressure to complete the loop a mere second in arrears.

Puma youngster Pierre-Louis Loubet remains a lonely seventh overall while WRC2 frontrunners Oliver Solberg, Ole Christian Veiby and Jari Huttunen complete the top 10. Sami Pajari, who had been second in the category, dropped down the order due to a high-speed spin. 

  • 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.
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