Jari-Matti Latvala is having the dream start to Rally Sweden and the Finn – who led after last night’s super special stage – has powered back into the lead in the all-new Toyota Yaris WRC after today’s first three stages. Thierry Neuville, who took the advantage early this morning with two consecutive fastest times, is just 3.9 seconds adrift in the Hyundai and Kris Meeke is further back in third.
The second round of the FIA World Rally Championship got underway last night at the now traditional super special stage in Karlstad. Latvala notched up Toyota’s first stage win on its return to the series and headed the field into the longest day of the event. He lost some time in the morning’s first stage and dropped to fourth over the bumpy snow-strewn stage but a better run through the second test saw him bounce back up the leaderboard to sit just behind rally leader Neuville. In the final stage of the loop some changes to the suspension set up aided the Finn and with Neuville backing off after hitting something, Latvala was able to power into the lead. Neuville similarly suffered over the bumpy first stage but was able to set fastest times in the first two stages, suspension set up changes also helping his charge. Kris Meeke is running well in third, happy with the C3 WRC but also driving to his own rhythm. The Northern Irishman is 18.8 seconds adrift of the lead at Friday’s mid-point service.
Behind the leading trio reigning FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier has been struggling for grip at the front of the field, but the Frenchman has climbed from an earlier ninth to fourth. Ott Tänak made a good start, second after the first stage this morning. However a gearbox issue hampered him in the following two tests and the Estonian dropped to fifth. Mads Østberg, the first privateer to be running one of the 2017 specification World Rally Cars, is a fine sixth after very limited testing in the Fiesta WRC and the Norwegian is 15.1 seconds ahead of Dani Sordo, the Spaniard dropping time in the final stage when he got distracted and missed a hairpin. Craig Breen, in his debut competitive outing in the C3 WRC, is eighth and under a second behind Sordo, the Irish driver loving every minute behind the wheel of the new car. Juho Hänninen and Hayden Paddon round off the top 10.
In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, the battle between Škoda Fabia R5 drivers Pontus Tidemand and Ole Christian Veiby rages. Veiby held the early advantage but was overhauled by Tidemand in the final stage of the loop, the pair split by just 5.2 seconds.