Ott Tänak won all three Saturday morning speed tests at Rally Sweden to close on second-placed Jari-Matti Latvala.After victory in the ultra-fast Knon opener, the third-placed Estonian was quickest through Hagfors and Vargåsen to narrow the gap to 9.2sec.The Ford Fiesta driver edged out rally leader Thierry Neuville by a tenth of a second in Hagfors, with Latvala 2.7sec off the pace. He clawed back a further 3.4sec in Vargåsen to leave Latvala feeling the pressure.
“I’ve been pushing very hard. Conditions are better because I’m not early in the running order. The grip is consistent and we’re in a big battle with Jari-Matti. It needs to be perfect and so far we’ve done a really clean job,” said Tänak.
Latvala rued his decision to take two spare wheels in his Toyota Yaris. “I had a really nice run, I can’t do better,” said the Finn. “I made a mistake taking two spares when everyone else took one. I’m carrying too much weight at the back and losing time in the long corners.”
Neuville eased through both stages in the top three times and returned to the Torsby service park with a 32.8sec lead over Latvala in his Hyundai i20 Coupe. “With our lead we took it a bit more steady. I didn’t really jump over Colin’s Crest, I didn’t want to risk anything, we’re controlling it,” he said.
Sébastien Ogier was fourth and pulling away from Kris Meeke’s Citroën C3, the Ulsterman happy with his rhythm but disappointed with the times.
Dani Sordo completed the top six ahead of Craig Breen. The Irishman had a mistake-free morning following yesterday’s errors and his confidence was improving ‘step by step’.
Elfyn Evans, Stéphane Lefebvre and Hayden Paddon completed the leaderboard, the Kiwi losing another two minutes with no power steering in his i20 Coupe. “With these wider cars it’s like wrestling a 400lb lion – and I’m coming off second best!” he said.
The first stage of Rally Sweden’s afternoon loop has been cancelled on safety recommendations made by the FIA over the speed of the cars.
After analysing the first run through the Kron stage, the FIA advised Rally Sweden to cancel the second running on safety grounds.
The statement read: “Due to safety reasons after analyzing the average speeds on special stage 0 ad on recommendations from the FIA, special stage 12 is cancelled.”
This is the first time since the 2017 rules were introduced that a stage has been cancelled on safety grounds based on average speed.
M-Sport’s Ott Tanak was the fastest driver through the stage, at an average speed of 85.65mph.
This year, the WRC cars have more horsepower, better aerodynamics and centre differentials, which add up to the 2017 cars being the quickest over a competitive stage in the championship’s history.
The first stage of Saturday afternoon’s action on Rally Sweden will be the second running of Hagfors, with the loop consisting of two more long stages and one superspecial.