WRC Rally Sweden: Tänak takes win and championship lead

Rally Sweden: Tänak takes win and championship lead

Ott Tänak has won Rally Sweden and is the new championship leader heading into the next round in Mexico. The Estonian started the final day of the rally with an 8.6-second margin over Hyundai’s Craig Breen.

Three stages remained for Sunday on Rally Sweden including two passes through the 26.48 km long Västervik stage.

Tänak increased his lead by 3 seconds in the first pass through Västervik. However, the Estonian dropped 3.1 seconds in the second pass of Västervik, meaning that he had an 8.5-second advantage with only the 10.08 km Power Stage to go.

Things got more comfortable for Tänak when Breen deliberately checked in late into regroup after the second pass through Västervik (SS17). Breen received a 10-second time penalty as a result and dropped half a second behind his team-mate Thierry Neuville in the overall standings. It meant that Tänak had an 18-second lead heading into the Power Stage.

There were concerned faces at M-Sport when Pierre-Louis Loubet’s Ford Puma Rally1 lost power in the Power Stage. Loubet and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul jumped out of the car, thinking that something was on fire. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case and they jumped back in the car and completed the stage in EV mode, coming home in P6 overall.

Not all of Hyundai’s plans go to plan

Esapekka Lappi left the final service with no spare tyres in a bid to be as close to the minimum weight as possible for a big push in the Power Stage.

It paid off for Lappi who took the Power Stage win ahead of Elfyn Evans. Lappi also moved up to P7 overall after dropping down to P12 after his off Saturday afternoon.

Kalle Rovanperä was third-fastest in the Power Stage ahead of Ott Tänak who took the rally win. It’s Tänak’s first victory for M-Sport since Rally Germany 2017. The M-Sport team are back to winning ways for the first time since last year’s Rally Monte Carlo, ending a win drought of over a year. Tänak’s Rally Sweden win means that the Ford Puma Rally1 has now won two world rallies.

While everything went to plan for Lappi, it didn’t do exactly for Thierry Neuville. The Belgian was promoted to P2 after Breen’s penalty in a bid to maximise the points from the event without having a worse road position for the next round in Mexico. However, Neuville had a big moment in the Power Stage and completed 1.8s behind Breen in the Power Stage, meaning that Breen moved up to P2 again, 1.3s ahead of Neuville.

Breen, who started behind Neuville and had no idea that Neuville had a moment said at stage-end: “That wasn’t the plan, but I had no way of knowing.”

Hyundai couldn’t instruct Breen to take another penalty as that would have relegated the Irishman off the podium behind Rovanperä who finished just 5.1s behind Neuville in the end. In that case, Hyundai would have given Rovanperä and Toyota ‘free’ championship points.

Tänak new championship leader

The spotlights were for Ott Tänak with the biggest smile in the service park: “It obviously means a lot to me, to come into a new car and deliver to these guys [at M-Sport].

“It’s a big effort for them to fight against such big manufacturers. I am sure they are getting quite a bit of stress from me, but as long as it’s delivering then we are all winning. It’s great to be part of this team,” said the new championship leader.

Oliver Solberg took the lead in the WRC2 category after SS3 on Friday morning and never left the top spot. The young Swede dominated and won by 42.3 seconds over Ole Christian Veiby. Sami Pajari claimed P3 in the WRC2, his first WRC2 podium, and rounded off the top 10 overall.

Roope Korhonen won the WRC3 category from William Creighton who won the JWRC in Sweden. Creighton won the first round of this year’s JWRC by just 0.6s over Laurent Pellier.

The WRC returns to Mexico for the first time since 2020 for round 3 of the 2023 WRC season. Guanajuato Rally México takes place on 16-19 March.

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WRC Rally Sweden – Results

#DriversCarTime / Diff. to 1st
1.Tänak / JärveojaFord Puma Rally12:25:54.5
2.Breen / FultonHyundai i20 N Rally1+18.7
3.Neuville / WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally1+20.0
4.Rovanperä / HalttunenToyota GR Yaris Rally1+25.1
5.Evans / MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally1+1:24.0
6.Loubet / GilsoulFord Puma Rally1+5:59.0
7.Lappi / FermHyundai i20 N Rally1+7:42.4
8.Solberg / EdmondsonSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+7:48.1
9.Veiby / EriksenVolkswagen Polo GTI R5+8:30.4
10.Pajari / MälkönenSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+9:03.2

WRC 2023 Drivers’ Championship results – Standings after Round 2/13 [Top 10]

1.Ott Tänak41
2.Kalle Rovanperä38
3.Thierry Neuville32
4.Elfyn Evans29
5.Sébastien Ogier26
6.Craig Breen19
7.Esapekka Lappi15
8.Takamoto Katsuta8
9.Pierre-Louis Loubet8
10.Dani Sordo6

WRC 2023 Manufacturers’ Championship results – Standings after Round 2/13

1.Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT80
2.Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT66
3.M-Sport Ford WRT51

Photo: M-Sport