Thu 16 Feb 2023

The Inside Line: Sweden

We’ve finally defrosted after our annual trip to the WRC’s winter wonderland… Join us as we reflect on the hot topics from last week’s Rally Sweden.

Star Drive
All things considered, Ott Tänak's performance was truly remarkable - and it's undeniable that he was the star driver of the event. Despite it being only his second rally behind the wheel of M-Sport's Ford Puma, Tänak managed to win the snow and ice fixture by 18.7 seconds.

Tänak delivered an ultra-consistent drive throughout the whole rally and, although he only won one of the event's 18 stages, he was always hot on the heels of Hyundai rival Craig Breen. A big push under the darkness of Saturday evening allowed him to move ahead of Breen, and he never looked back from there.

Perhaps most impressive of all, however, was the fact the Estonian repeatedly said he wasn't happy with the feeling of the car. If there’s even more potential for Tänak to unleash when everything is working perfectly, the rest of the WRC field better watch out!

Most memorable stage
The Umeå test ran twice in sprint form on Thursday and Friday before being extended to 10.16km for both Saturday and Sunday. Super specials are often seen as 'Mickey Mouse' stages, but not this one.

It had everything a rally fan could ask for - sweeping bends, fast straights, tight junctions and thrilling jumps. But what made it truly unforgettable was the electric atmosphere.

Thousands of fans packed into the Red Barn Arena every day to witness the action, and the energy in the crowd added an extra layer of excitement to an already thrilling event.

Biggest surprise
Craig Breen exceeded all expectations with a stunning performance on his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 debut. After returning to the team from M-Sport Ford during the off-season, many assumed he would need time to acclimatise to the new car.

However, Breen proved any doubters wrong by leading for half of the rally, coming excruciatingly close to securing his maiden WRC victory. Despite not being able to hold on to the lead and eventually finishing second overall, the Irishman’s drive was a testament to his talent, determination, and role as a true team player.

One to forget
Despite the high expectations which surrounded Takamoto Katsuta as he made his points-scoring debut for manufacturers' champions Toyota Gazoo Racing, the Japanese driver definitely had a rally to forget.

Katsuta started strongly and even ran as high as fifth overall, showcasing his potential. However, things quickly turned sour when he rolled his Yaris into retirement early on Friday afternoon.

The setback was further compounded by another retirement on Sunday, after rejoining the event, due to a mechanical issue. As a result, Katsuta left the second round of the championship empty-handed.

Best save
Pierre-Louis Loubet certainly made the best save of Rally Sweden when his Puma ground to a halt halfway through the Wolf Power Stage. With sixth place all but guaranteed, Loubet and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul found themselves stranded on the stage - and they even exited the car to make sure it wasn't on fire.

After confirming there were no flames, the quick-thinking Frenchman selected EV mode, using the car's hybrid motor to carry him to the finish. Despite losing a significant amount of time, Loubet managed to hold position, much to the amazement of those watching on.

You’ll never believe it
After three full days of competition totalling more than 300 kilometres, just six-tenths of a second separated the leading two FIA Junior WRC drivers, William Creighton and Laurent Pellier.

It marked the second-closest finish in Junior WRC history. The closest was at Rally Finland in 2015, when Quentin Gilbert beat Henri Haapamäki by 0.5sec.

Number of the rally
385. The number of days M-Sport Ford had been waiting for their next WRC win (after Rallye Monte-Carlo in 2022).

Fun fact
Roope Korhonen, who won the WRC3 class on only his second event, is close friends with Kalle Rovanperä. More on that here.

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