Overnight leaders of Round Two of the FIA World Rally Championship’s Rally Sweden Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Gazoo Racing) picked up where they left off yesterday by once more setting the pace over SS6, today’s first special stage.
Repeating the four stages contested yesterday, crews will have a better understanding of the tricky conditions and will be able to extract more from their driving. With slightly cooler temperatures overnight, some snow has fallen and the cooler air temperature only adds more grip to the icy patches.
Said Evans at the end of SS6: “It’s been an okay morning but it was difficult in there. There was a lot of grip, but in some places it was slippier than expected.”
Evans’ fastest stage time means he ekes out another three precious seconds over his rivals, with Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT’s Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja 3.2 seconds slower over the 21.26km Hof-Finnskog stage. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Gazoo Racing) pipped Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT) for third place, while 19-year-old Kalle Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Gazoo Racing) set the fifth fastest stage time, albeit 6.9 seconds off the pace set by team-mates Evans/Martin.
Neuville said: “I tried to drive fast but the road is completely different. I struggled but we tried to push.”
Overall, the leaderboard remains unchanged. Evans now leads by 11.7 seconds over Tänak. Rovanperä is under threat from his team-mate Ogier, who is just 0.1 seconds behind. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (M-Sport Ford WRT) are coming under pressure from Neuville, and the fast Finns will need to keep cool heads to retain their fourth place overall.
The competitors next tackle Finnskogen 2 with 20.68km of special stage.
Top Ten after SS6:
01) E. Evans (Toyota Yaris WRC) – 40m 08.9s
02) O. Tänak (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +11.7s
03) K. Rovanperä (Toyota Yaris WRC) +21.2s
04) S. Ogier (Toyota Yaris WRC) +21.3s
05) E. Lappi (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +28.2s
06) T. Neuville (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +29.4s
07) C. Breen (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +36.2s
08) T. Suninen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +46.4s
09) T. Katsuta (Toyota Yaris WRC) +01m 06.6s
10) E. Lindholm/M. Korhonen (Skoda Fabia R5 Evo) +02m 30.1s