Novikov Equals Career Best With M-Sport
Following a total of 349.16 competitive kilometres, the 60th Rally Sweden came to a close with two loops of three identical stages and another record finish for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team. Establishing himself as a regular front-runner, Evgeny Novikov equalled his career best fifth to claim his second consecutive top-five finish in as many events.
Despite failing to finish with an engine problem, Ott Tänak showed an impressive turn of speed over the course of the event with Poland’s Michal Solowow safely completing the event in 20th position overall.
With only two events completed in this the 2012 edition of the World Rally Championship, Novikov has set the stages alight to claim 5th in the drivers championship. Consistently challenging for the top times, the young Russian has impressed throughout and this weekend proved no different. Despite his relative inexperience on snow, the 21-year-old Muscovite posted top-five times on numerous occasions to beat snow-masters like Petter Solberg, Mads Østberg and Mikko Hirvonen.
The final day of competition in Hagfors saw much of the same from Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet. Setting the fifth fastest time in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC on SS19 – four seconds up on Sébastien Loeb – the Russian kept the eight-time World Champion at bay to secure fifth place.
With a composed drive over the final loop of stages, Novikov kept a charging Loeb behind him to secure fifth overall position for the second consecutive rally.
Rally Sweden provided mixed fortunes for Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk. With mistakes forcing the Estonian pairing off the road on two separate occasions, the duo found themselves over 30 minutes adrift of the leaders heading into the final day of competition. Displaying real resolve, the 24-year-old refused to let his earlier misfortunes dampen the event. Proving his potential in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Tänak posted consistent top-ten times, despite his disadvantaged road position, and claimed his maiden WRC stage victories on SS14 and SS18. Unfortunately for the Estonian, his rally came to a halt on SS22 with an engine problem.
Elsewhere, Michal Solowow and co-driver Maciej Baran completed the 60th Rally Sweden in 20th place overall. Piloting a Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the first time and delighted to be back behind the wheel of a WRC car, the Polish pairing ran a composed rally; gaining experience and staying clear of the snow-banks which affected so many others.
Evgeny Novikov (5th) said:
“The rally was very good. I think fifth place is another very good result for us. Yesterday my main aim was to not let [Sebastien] Loeb get past and we did that so I am happy.
“It was quite difficult for us being our first time here in Sweden and not knowing the stages, so another fifth place is really very good.
“Now I look forward to Mexico where I think we can have an even better result.”
Michal Solowow (20th) said:
“This rally has been fantastic. We had beautiful weather, nice snow, perfect stages, a good car – it couldn’t get much better for me!
“M-Sport have been fantastic also. We had great support and the whole team has made us feel very welcome – very good weekend indeed. I am very happy!”
Elsewhere End Of Day 3 Quotes, Sweden
Mads Østberg (3rd) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
"For me this third position was really important and it was also really important for me to win the fight with Petter [Solberg]. Of course he had a puncture but it was due to us pushing, it could have happened to either of us, but it happened to him so I am thankful for that!
"We pushed Petter [Solberg] really hard this morning and made up over half of the distance so it has been a very good day for us and I am really pleased with how it ended.”
Martin Prokop (9th) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
“The Rally was very good because last weekend I was very sick and I didn’t know if it would be possible to be here. So we are happy that we managed the whole race. I was pretty tired all the time and it was not easy for me, but the result was perfect. We were improving every stage and getting some good experience so I am very happy with this weekend."
Eyvind Brynildsen (10th) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
"The rally has been very good and I enjoyed it a lot but there’s mixed feelings because I felt that I would have done much better on Friday. But ok we are here. We brought the car home with no damage and on our first rally in a WRC car, we scored points!
"I think we showed some good speed on this rally so I hope we can push to do some more WRC events in the future. Everything looks brighter now so I just hope we can find a bit more of the budget to do some more rallies with Mads [Østberg and the Adapta Motorsport Team] and M-Sport."
Craig Breen (16th) Ford Fiesta S2000
“We pushed on the first stage after service [SS22] but we took it steady. We took a bit of time out of Araujo on that first stage, but not enough so we backed off to get the car home in one piece.
“We’ve got two of the most difficult rallies out of the way now, and with good points on both of them I’ve got to be pleased about that! P-G is our biggest competition and to be leading the Championship on two events he was always going to be quick on is pretty good. As we move to gravel and especially asphalt I think we’ll be really close so it should be a good fight!”
Yazeed Al Rajhi (24th) Ford Fiesta RRC
“The rally has been very nice. I’ve really enjoyed it and I have learnt a lot. I think it’s been very good experience here.
“My next rally will be Portugal where will we go and see what level we are at. I’ll try to push a little bit, but I am here to learn this season.