Jari-Matti Latvala earned victory in Rally Sweden, giving Toyota its first win since 1999 just two events into its WRC comeback.Latvala inherited the lead of the event when Thierry Neuville crashed out of first place during Saturday’s last stage for the second WRC event in a row.He had hit a post in Monte Carlo, breaking his suspension, and hit a concrete block on the super special, the final stage of the penultimate day, in Karlstad. He had been over 40s clear with only three stages to run.
With Neuville out, what had been an intense battle for second became the fight for victory.
Despite Saturday’s loop being shortened due to concerns over high speeds, Ott Tanak made the most of running further back on the road. He was fastest on all three in the morning stages, and scythed into Latvala’s advantage to the tune of 3.8s by the end of Saturday.
After sweeping the roads as the first car in the running order on Friday, Sebastien Ogier was also in the mix, ending Saturday 12.8s behind Latvala.
But two rapid times from the Finn extended his lead over 20s before the Power Stage. Tanak suffered with a loose-rear end on his M-Sport Ford Fiesta and teammate Ogier fell out of the fight with a spin at the first corner of the first stage on Sunday.
Tanak took runner-up, and a second successive podium, while Monte winner Ogier took third and points for second on the Power Stage, behind Latvala.
Kris Meeke would have been on for fourth, but he crashed out on Saturday afternoon with a crest unsettling the car before a corner. He did take fourth on the Power Stage for two points.
Dani Sordo managed a sensible weekend, his only worry a distracting net falling down from the roof of his Hyundai on one of Friday’s afternoon stages.
He headed Craig Breen, who was struggling for confidence in the Citroen C3 WRC, his first event in the car. Breen still took a second consecutive fifth place, despite a tough weekend.
Elfyn Evans hit a bank and suffered a puncture on Friday, and then had an engine issue on Sunday morning – but he still held off Hayden Paddon for sixth.
Paddon struggled with his car on Friday morning, but a change at service unlocked the Kiwi’s pace. A subsequent power steering problem led to what Paddon described as ‘wrestling a 400lb lion’ in driving his Hyundai. He took seventh and claimed a point on the Power Stage.
Stephane Lefebvre was the highest-placed 2016-spec car in eighth in only his second visit to Sweden.
Mads Ostberg struggled on his debut in a 2017 car in his privately-run Ford Fiesta WRC. The rear wing came off the car on Friday, forcing him to drive two stages with no rear downforce and then skipping the final run of the day.
Juho Hanninen hit a tree on Friday and a bridge on Sunday in a weekend purely in contrast to his Toyota stablemate Latvala.
Skoda driver Pontus Tidemand won his home round in WRC2, heading Teemu Suninen and Ole Christian Veiby.
Story by: By: Jack Benyon, Autosport Group National Editor
Final top 10 results:
|1||Jari-Matti Latvala||Toyota||48 pt|
|2||Sebastien Ogier||Ford||44 pt|
|3||Ott Tanak||Ford||33 pt|
|4||Dani Sordo||Hyundai||25 pt|
|5||Craig Breen||Citroen||20 pt|
|6||Elfyn Evans||Ford||18 pt|
|7||Stephane Lefebvre||Citroen||10 pt|
|8||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai||8 pt|
|9||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai||7 pt|
|10||Andreas Mikkelsen||Skoda||6 pt|