Sweden WRC: Latvala closes in on first win with Toyota

A resurgent Jari-Matti Latvala is on course for his 17th WRC win, after taking control of Rally Sweden on Sunday morning in his Toyota Yaris. The Finn was fastest on both Sunday morning runs through Likenas, taking 7.1s and 9.1s out of Ott Tanak respectively and extending his lead over the Estonian to 20s.

Tanak was the pacesetter on a shortened Saturday, and had reduced Latvala’s lead to 3.8s overnight. But he struggled with his M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC on Sunday with oversteer on the fresh snow coating the surface of Likenas. He was still second-quickest on both runs.

Sebastien Ogier had been in with a chance of victory, 16.6s behind Latvala overnight, but he threw away any chance of a challenge with a spin and stall on the first corner of the first stage of the morning. He heads into the Power Stage 58.3s off the lead.

Hyundai’s Dani Sordo and Citroen’s Craig Breen hold fourth and fifth respectively separated by half a minute, but the battle for sixth is still on.

Elfyn Evans, driving for the M-Sport-run DMACK team, had an engine problem with his Ford Fiesta WRC on the first run through Likenas, dropping chunks of time to a resurgent Hayden Paddon.

The Kiwi had a powersteering issue yesterday but was rapid later on on Saturday and reduced the deficit to Evans further this morning. He’s 8.7s behind Evans with the Power Stage remaining.

Thierry Neuville, who lost a 40s rally lead by crashing out of Saturday’s super special, cruised through the morning stages, saving his tyres in an effort to score points on the Power Stage.

Drivers having issues on Sunday morning included Latvala’s teammate Juho Hanninen, who hit a bridge after having hit a tree and retired on Friday. Kris Meeke, who crashed out yesterday, had a spin in SS17 and remains outside of the top 10.

Pontus Tidemand leads WRC2 in his Skoda Fabia R5, while Teemu Suninen (M-Sport Fiesta R5) and Ole Christian Veiby (Fabia R5) are embroiled in a battle for second in the class.

Standings after SS17:

Pos. Driver Car Time/Gap
1  Jari-Matti Latvala Toyota 2m04m59.3s
2  Ott Tanak Ford +20.0s
3  Sebastien Ogier Ford +58.3s
4  Dani Sordo Hyundai +2m03.5s
5  Craig Breen Citroen +2m36.0s
6  Elfyn Evans Ford +5m14.8s
7  Hayden Paddon Hyundai +5m23.5s
8  Stephane Lefebvre Citroen +6m52.1s
9  Pontus Tidemand Skoda +8m33.3s
10  Teemu Suninen Ford +9m27.7s

By: Jack Benyon, Autosport Group National Editor