Ott Tanak heads into the final day of Rally Sweden with an 8.6s gap to Craig Breen after a tightly fought battle that included tyre drama for both crews. Thierry Neuville jumped into third 23.7s after the final stage of Saturday’s running.
Day 3 saw battle resume between Ott Tanak and Craig Breen with the latter continuing to lead throughout the morning loop. Breen initially opened a 5.7s gap to his Ford rival over the first two stages but Breen lost the ground he made on the final stage of the morning to end up near his starting gap.
Tanak came out of the gates quickly in the afternoon and outpaced Breen by 1.3s to reduce the gap to 1.7s after SS12. The stage was also where the gravel that was being unearthed by the cars became an issue.
Elfyn Evans made contact with a snowbank after losing the rear end which subsequently dropped the Welshman to sixth after that stage.
It was SS13 though where the drama really ramped up, Breen gave away a further 1.2s after his front left tyre on his Hyundai delaminated near the end of the stage. The Irishman’s issues meant that he only had a lead of 0.5s over Tanak which was then capitalised on by the Estonian at the next stage.
Esapekka Lappi had a similar issue but went off on the final corner. The Finn dropped over seven minutes due to being stuck in a snowbank with spectators trying to free the stricken Hyundai. Rovanpera moved up into the top three as a result.
Tanak’s move into the lead on SS14 wasn’t without issue, the Ford suffered a tyre delamination also, but the time loss didn’t seem too great. With the top two separated by 2.3s, there was a battle behind for the last spot on the podium.
Thierry Neuville had been making steady progress throughout the day and finished the penultimate test on the same overall time as Rovanpera. The Belgian won the stage, outpacing the defending champion by 3.4s to make it extremely tight heading to the final stage of the day.
Neuville won SS15 to cement himself in third with Rovanpera knocked down to fourth but it was Tanak with the biggest gain. A 6.3s delta at the finish compared to Breen meant that Tanak heads into the final day of the rally with an 8.6s advantage.
Despite ending the day in the lead, Tanak wasn’t happy with the tyre issues that led to him running one full slick tyre.
“It was quite unfortunate what happened. I had planned for these two stages and we lost a full tyre on the previous one, so we had a full slick for this one. It was not easy.” Said Tanak.
Standings after Saturday
- Tanak – 1hr 54min 45.4s
- Breen – +8.6s
- Neuville – +23.7s
- Rovanpera – +27.5s
- Evans – +57.7s
- Loubet – +2min 28.1s
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