As we posted earlier today, Jari-Matti Latvala won Rally Sweden. This of course bought much joy and celebration to Toyota Gazoo Racing. Now we shall go through the action from Rally Sweden.
On Thursday and Friday
Rally Sweden began on Thursday with a single night stage. It was won by Jari-Matti Latvala in his Toyota beating with less than a second the next four drivers that included Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak. Last of this inside-a-second group was the current Championship leader Sébastien Ogier.
On Friday seven stages were in order. The first two stages went to Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville putting him on top of the leaderboard. Latvala regained the lead after speeding through stage 4 while Neuville took it cautiously after having an impact with something on the road. Latvala’s place at the top was short lived as Neuville instantly took his place after stages 5 and 6. This ping-pong match between the two drivers set the Friday’s final standing as it follows: Thierry Neuville in the lead. On second, Jari-Matti Latvala 28.1 seconds behind Neuville. On third, M-Sport’s Tänak 21.6 seconds behind Latvala and on fourth Kris Meeke in his Citroen, only 2.1 seconds behind Tänak.
From the start, Saturday belong to M-Sport’s Estonian driver Ott Tänak. He surged on right from the start being the quickest of the bunch on stage 9, the first of the day. Tänak was in desperate need for speed as he was 49.7 seconds behind the rally leader Thierry Neuville. The two also had between them Toyota’s Latvala.
From this top three, Neuville and Tänak were the quick ones. Neuville was able to increase his lead over Latvala as the day went on. Ott Tänak was also closing in the Finn and was sometimes even quicker than Neuville. It seemed that the Belgian would get some compensation after losing his lead in Monte Carlo by crashing.
The speed of this year’ cars have surprised even the rally organisers as on Saturday the FIA advised them to cancel stage 12, which they of course did. Behind this action was a fairly simple reason, the cars were too fast for the stage.
However, disaster stroke Neuville’s rally. On the last stage of the day he hit a concrete block and severely damaged his Hyundai i20’s steering. This meant he was unable to finish the stage and was handed a 10-minute penalty. This meant his lead of over 43 seconds to Jari-Matti Latvala was vanished and he was out of the race.
Sunday began with Toyota’s Latvala leading the pack. His difference to second placed Ott Tänak was only 3.8 seconds, so the Estonian and M-Sport had a genuine chance to challenge Latvala. Jari-Matti Latvala however powered through the last three stages even claiming the maximum bonus points from the Power Stage. Tänak had problems with the handling of his Ford Fiesta and so wasn’t able to attack Latvala the same way as on Saturday. Tänak ended up settling for second place in peace as his closest rival from behind, his teammate Sebastien Ogier, was in the end still 30.3 seconds behind Tänak. The best Hyundai driver following Thierry Neuville’s crash on Saturday was Dani Sordo on fourth, who finished 1 minute and 12 seconds behind Ogier.
The Top 5 of Rally Sweden 2017:
- Jari-Matti Latvala; Toyota; 2h36m03.6s
- Ott Tanak; M-Sport; +29.2s
- Sebastien Ogier; M-Sport; +59.5s
- Dani Sordo; Hyundai; +2m11.5s
- Craig Breen; Citroen; +2m51.2s