Tanak dominates Rally Sweden

Images by McKlein/LAT

Tanak dominates Rally Sweden


Tanak dominates Rally Sweden


Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Ott Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja clinched victory on the FIA World Rally Championship’s second round, Rally Sweden, which promoted them to the overall championship lead for the first time in their career. Fending off assaults from Jari-Matti Latvala and Teemu Suninen early in the rally, Tanak went on to dominate the event, winning by 53.7s over the Citroen Total of Esapekka Lappi. Hyundai Shell Mobis driver Thierry Neuville finished 3 seconds only behind Lappi in third place, his third career podium in Sweden, and remains second in the championship standings after two events.

Sunday began with two runs through the Likenas test, which showcased typical Rally Sweden conditions with a proper covering of snow and ice providing good grip for the rally cars. The “Torsby” special stage, host of the Power Stage and used twice previously, presented however different road conditions as the gravel underneath the surface had been exposed.

Rally leader Tanak took a careful approach to the opening two stages, saving his tires for the Power Stage and its bonus points. His strategy paid off as he dominated the Torsby test by going 3.5s faster than Neuville to score maximum points.

Behind Tanak, Andreas Mikkelsen had started the rally’s final day in second place, tied with Lappi (pictured above), but the Norwegian struggled in the first pass of Likenas with his set of used Michelin tires. He set only the 10th-fastest time and dropped behind both Lappi and Neuville.

Lappi slightly increased his gap over third-placed Neuville through both passes of Likenas but drove conservatively on the Power Stage. The Citroen driver secured second by three seconds overall.

Despite missing out the second place, there was consolation for Neuville as the Belgian collected four valuable bonus points by setting the second-fastest time in the Power Stage. Lappi also picked up one bonus point with the fifth fastest time, just behind Sebastien Ogier, who scored two bonus points as the fourth-fastest driver.

Mikkelsen held on to fourth but a stage win on the second pass of Likenas by M-Sport’s Elyn Evans put the Hyundai driver under pressure for the Power Stage. Mikkelsen dropped 11.6s on Sunday to finish only 2.8s ahead of his Welsh rival. Fifth-placed Evans was also able to score three bonus points with a third-fastest time through the Torsby Power Stage.

A tense battle for sixth place was expected on Sunday, with Kris Meeke and Sebastien Loeb separated by only 1.6s overnight. In the end, the Frenchman did not manage to dominate, dropping five seconds to Meeke on the first pass of Likenas and eventually finishing 10.9s behind him in seventh place.

Pontus Tidemand ended his home event — the second with the M-Sport Ford WRT team — in eighth, 1m48s behind Loeb, but still scoring valuable manufacturers’ points for the British team.

Ole Christian Veiby picked up ninth place overall in addition to an impressive FIA WRC 2 victory. He had been under pressure on Saturday from Jari Huttunen but won comfortably in the end, as his Finnish rival went off into a snowbank on the second run of Likenas and retired. Emil Lindholm took second place in the category, 16.1s ahead of FIA World Rallycross champion Johan Kristoffersson.

Former Skoda and M-Sport factory driver Janne Tuohino completed the top 10 overall, nearly 13 years from his last appearance in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Mads Ostberg took the FIA WRC 2 Pro victory for Citroen Total, finishing over three minutes ahead of Skoda Motorsport factory driver Kalle Rovanpera, while Gus Greensmith took third place for M-Sport.

Swedish youngster Tom Kristensson won the FIA Junior World Rally Championship’s inaugural event, finishing his home round 1m31.2s ahead of Estonia’s Roland Poom in second. Jan Solans completed the podium, with all drivers competing in an identical M-Sport-run Ford Fiesta R2s.

Final unofficial results:

1 Ott Tanak / Martin Javeoja Toyota Yaris WRC 2h47m30.0s
2 Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm Citroen C3 WRC 2h48m23.7s
3 Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2h48m26.7s
4 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2h48m35.4s
5 Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin Ford Fiesta WRC 2h48m38.2s
6 Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall Toyota Yaris WRC 2h49m08.8s
7 Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2h49m19.7s
8 Pontus Tidemand / Ola Floene Ford Fiesta WRC 2h51m07.7s
9 Ole Christian Veiby / Jonas Andersson Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 2h54m04.0s
10 Janne Tuohino / Mikko Markkula Ford Fiesta WRC 2h55m51.4s