As the event continues, Tänak and Evans will be looking to improve their pace further.
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ott Tänak is holding a strong fifth place after a dramatic day of competition at Rally Sweden. The Estonian made a solid start to the rally and is well placed to build on his position as the FIA World Rally Championship event continues tomorrow.
Running as the eleventh car on the road, the conditions were not in Tänak’s favour over the morning loop, but he refused to give up the fight. Regrouping for the second pass when the conditions provided a more level playing field, the Estonian’s times improved significantly.
Finding a comfortable rhythm, he and co-driver Raigo Mõlder rebuilt their confidence. Whereas others found themselves at the mercy of the difficult conditions, Tänak was able to keep his Ford Fiesta RS WRC out of any major drama.
There are some really nice stages tomorrow so I just want to go out there, push hard and have some fun!
Keeping his head where those around him faltered, the Estonian’s mix of maturity and determination could yet reap some considerable rewards with all still to play for.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, it was a cautious start for Elfyn Evans who was keen to find his feet amidst the unfamiliar conditions. Gradually building their confidence, he and co-driver Daniel Barritt were eager to show a marked increase in pace from this time 12 months ago, and they certainly achieved that over the second loop.
The Welshman was on course to challenge for a stage win through the second pass of Röjden (SS8) with the fastest time through split section two. Unfortunately, he became stuck in a snow bank towards the end of the stage which cost him almost two minutes to the leading pack.
As always, Evans wasn’t going to let the disappointment get him down. Regrouping perfectly, he set the fourth fastest time through Torsby 2 (SS9) – just 2.6 seconds shy of the stage win – and proved that he has the potential to battle towards the head of the field on all surfaces.
As the event continues, Tänak and Evans will be looking to improve their pace further – each keen to climb the leader board as a direct result of their speed and composure.
Ott Tänak (5th) said: “We seemed to be struggling in the morning. Maybe it was something to do with our road position because the times were a long way from the leaders in the morning, but when the conditions were more even in the afternoon we were a lot closer.
“But still I was not fully confident. I need to have a good sleep tonight and make sure that I’m in good shape for tomorrow. So long as we can find a good rhythm I think we can be better. There are some really nice stages tomorrow so I just want to go out there, push hard and have some fun!”
Elfyn Evans (10th) said: “We braked ever so slightly late and I was carrying a little too much speed into a left-hander [on SS8]. I tried to make it around the corner but I was just that little bit too fast and got stuck. Perhaps the wiser option would have been to overshoot, but when you’re in the heat of the moment your natural instinct to make the corner just takes over; and it wasn’t the right decision this time.
“On a positive, the increase in speed that we have shown from last year to this is already more than we expected. I was struggling in places this morning, but I knew that there were places to improve and I think that we were going pretty well up until that error of judgement on SS8.
“You live and learn and there is still a very long way to go. Tenth isn’t where we want to be so we will keep trying and see what comes.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “It’s been a day of ups and downs. Both Ott [Tänak] and Elfyn [Evans] struggled to get into a good rhythm through the morning loop, but it was good to see a significant increase in pace from both drivers throughout the afternoon.
“It was a shame about Elfyn’s off on SS8, but he certainly wasn’t the only one to be caught out and I think he has proven that he can challenge for a good result on snow. Ott has kept largely out of trouble and if he can build on what he did this afternoon, he could be on course for a strong result.”
Additional M-Sport Drivers
Yuriy Protasov (8th) said: “I have been really happy with the day. The stages have been really difficult but I think that we have driven well. Tomorrow’s stages are a lot more familiar having experienced them last year, so let’s see what we can do there.”
Henning Solberg (9th) said: “It has been an okay day – an okay day at work. It wasn’t perfect, but that is just the way it goes sometimes. We’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight and try and get into a good rhythm for tomorrow – sometimes that’s all it takes.”
Pontus Tidemand (7th WRC 2) said: “We were just a little bit too fast over a crest. The rear kicked out into the soft snow and then we had a really long slide. I think we would have made it but unfortunately the front got sucked into the inside of a snow bank and we ended up in the ditch. I don’t know if I should say that it was bad luck, but that is life. Tomorrow we just need to try and get motivated and really attack. There’s not so much to fight for anymore, so I just want to go out there and have some fun.”