WRC - Tänak leads tight battle for Rally Sweden podium after first morning | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Tänak leads tight battle for Rally Sweden podium after first morning

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Rally Sweden - Friday morning

WRC Rally Sweden - Ott Tanäk / Martin Jarveoja

Ott Tänak has built a small 5.5s lead over M-Sport Ford’s Teemu Suninen over the FIA World Rally Championship’s Friday morning loop of Rally Sweden. His Toyota team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala completes the podium places, 0.1s behind Suninen.

Although conditions were unusually warm in Sweden with 7-8 degrees Celsius, there was still enough snow and ice on the stages for the competitors’ studded tyres to grip into on the forest stages in Sweden and Norway.

Running third on the road, Tänak avoided the fate of sweeping any loose snow while also avoiding the road surface deteriorating as more cars passed over the stage. He won both the Hof-Finnskog and Röjden stages to take the lead from overnight leader Thierry Neuville, who dropped to fourth place as Finnish duo Suninen and Latvala climbed towards the top of the leaderboard.

Hyundai driver Neuville settled into fourth but remains within touching distance of the leading trio, 6s behind rally leader Tänak and only 0.5s from the final podium place.

Neuville’s title rival Sébastien Ogier struggled as first car on the road, dropping from second to fifth place. And Ogier may have to look carefully behind his shoulder this afternoon, with Citroën team-mate Esapekka Lappi only 0.4s behind him. Lappi had been battling Andreas Mikkelsen for sixth place but the duo have now joined Ogier in the fight for fifth, with Hyundai’s Mikkelsen 2.9s off Ogier.

Kris Meeke is holding station on eighth, while nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb is trying to find the right rhythm and acclimatising again to Sweden’s unique challenges after six years away from its snow and ice stages in ninth place.

Loeb is in a fight with Elfyn Evans this afternoon, who is 10th after recovering from a spin on this morning’s first test. An impressive time on Röjden, only 1.1s behind stage winner Tänak, has brought down his gap to Loeb to 1.6s heading to midday service.

Marcus Gronhölm’s WRC return with Toyota, nine years after his last appearance on the same rally in a Ford Focus, ended early, going off into a snowbank and becoming stuck on Röjden. He had already suffered spins in both of the previous stages before retiring.

Janne Tuohino and Lorenzo Bertelli, both in Ford Fiestas, also struggled, suffering spins and ending the morning 22nd and 29th overall respectively.