“Quite good grip and just a few slushy places. Overall the conditions are quite fair at the moment, all good,” said Tänak.
Suninen’s pace came as a surprise. Despite hailing from Finland, the Ford Fiesta driver lacks experience of snow and ice. “The grip was amazing but I couldn’t use the car as I wanted. We can go much faster. It wasn’t easy and I needed to work quite hard,” he said.
Sébastien Ogier was Tänak’s closest challenger in the overall standings. The Citroën C3 driver was fourth fastest to hold a 0.8sec advantage over Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20. Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth after posting third fastest time in his Yaris.
It was a bad opening for several frontrunners. Elfyn Evans, Marcus Grönholm and Janne Tuohino all spun into snowbanks, while Pontus Tidemand lost time when the windscreen wipers jammed across his Fiesta’s windscreen.
Top 15 classification after stage 1
1. Thierry Neuville BEL Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1m 34.9s
2. Sebastien Ogier FRA Citroen C3 WRC +0.8s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen NOR Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1.1s
4. Ott Tanak EST Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing+1.9s
6. Teemu Suninen FIN M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC +2.7s
7. Esapekka Lappi FIN Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing +3.0s
8. Marcus Gronholm FIN Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing +4.1s
9. Eerik Pietarinen FIN Skoda Fabia R5 +4.4s
11. Jari Huttunen FIN Skoda Fabia R5 +4.4s
12. Elfyn Evans GBR M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC +4.8s
13. Pontus Tidemand SWE M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC +4.8s
14. Mads Ostberg NOR Citroen Total C3 R5 +5.0s
15. Kalle Rovanpera FIN Skoda Fabia R5 +5.4s