Sweden WRC: Evans leads Tanak after Friday stages

Stephen Brunsdon

Evans dominated proceedings in the morning, winning two of the first three stages to take an eight-second lead into service over his teammate Kalle Rovanpera.

The teenager had kept in touch with Evans heading into the final stage of the day, but a spin and a stall at a hairpin allowed defending World Rally champion Ott Tanak to move into second.

Evans is now 8.5s ahead of Tanak heading into Saturday, with Rovanpera a further 5.8s in arears in third.

High temperatures caused yesterday’s opening superspecial in Karlstad to be cancelled, effectively turning it into a second Shakedown stage for the crews.

That meant that the rally start proper took place on the first pass of Hof-Finnskog, which Evans won by 1.1s from Tanak in the Hyundai.

Tanak pegged Evans back on the next test at Finnskogen by just under a second but lost over eight seconds on SS4 (Nyckelvattnet) to drop behind Rovanpera to third.

Rovanpera’s woes on the Torsby Sprint allowed Tanak, who added a second stage win of the day, to claim back second and is Evans’ nearest challenger ahead of the second day.

Sebastien Ogier maintains his fourth place and is now just 3.5s behind teammate Rovanpera at the end of the first day. The Frenchman declared his day as “OK” but believes he can extract more from his Yaris WRC on Saturday.

“[There was] a little bit too much gravel here and there, and in some sections it was good fun driving with some good grip, so it’s been an OK day. But it’s clear that our team-mates have shown that we can do better,” Ogier said.

Esapekka Lappi is fifth for M-Sport, ahead of current championship leader Thierry Neuville – who struggled for confidence after running first on the road in his Hyundai i20 WRC.

Neuville said: “We thought going first would be a disadvantage and it definitely was. We’re not happy with the overall classification but we are happy with how we are in the car.”

Craig Breen lies seventh behind Neuville heading into Saturday, with the Irishman setting the third fastest time on the final stage of the day at Torsby.

M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen and Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta complete the leading WRC times in eighth and ninth respectively.

Elsewhere, there was disappointment for four-time Rally Sweden winner Jari-Matti Latvala, who suffered a suspected electrical issue on his privateer Yaris WRC following SS2 which experienced intermittent engine cut-outs over the next test at Nyckelvattnet.

The Finn, who is without a factory drive in the championship for the first time since 2006, failed to make it out for the Torsby Sprint stage as a result.

In WRC2, Citroen’s Mads Ostberg maintains his advantage over compatriot Ole Christian Veiby’s Hyundai. Ostberg’s lead is 8.4s going into Saturday’s stages.

Pontus Tidemand currently lies in third in his Ford Fiesta R5, just 18.3s off the pace, while Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux is fourth, having suffered a costly overshoot on the second stage of the day.