Evans pulls clear after first loop

Tänak drops to third behind sensational Rovanperä

Elfyn Evans

Elfyn Evans stormed into a clear Rally Sweden lead on Friday’s final full-length stage.

The Toyota driver won Nyckelvattnet by 2.6s over young team-mate Kalle Rovanperä, who moved up to second in a Yaris 1-2 ahead of Ott Tänak.

Reigning World Rally champion Tänak, running down the start order after his Monte Carlo crash, felt the ice breaking up on the stage hampered him as he set the fourth fastest time.

That left Evans 7.9s clear of Rovanperä up front, with Tänak 0.8s off the teenager’s second place.

Thierry Neuville continued to find running first on the road in the mixed snow, ice and gravel conditions hard to judge and was only eighth quickest on the stage.

His Hyundai is sixth overall behind Sebastien Ogier’s Toyota and Esapekka Lappi’s M-Sport Ford, and only just ahead of Hyundai team returnee Craig Breen.

Both M-Sport drivers have been puzzled not to be closer to the pace through the morning, with Lappi’s team-mate Teemu Suninen down in eighth on a rally where he fought for victory a year ago.

Jari-Matti Latvala’s WRC return has already become an unhappy affair.

Following his spin on the previous stage, his privately-entered Toyota repeatedly cut out on Nyckelvattnet.

He is now nearly two and a half minutes away from the front and admitted his rally is effectively “over”.

Under the truncated itinerary prompted by the difficult weather conditions, the only other stage running on Friday is the short Torsby sprint in the afternoon.

The intention is for the field to repeat Friday’s stages on Saturday provided they are in a good enough state.

Leading positions:

1 Evans (Toyota)
2 Rovanperä (Toyota) +7.9s
3 Tänak (Hyundai) +8.7s
4 Ogier (Toyota) +16.4s
5 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +20.2s
6 Neuville (Hyundai) +22.0s
7 Breen (Hyundai) +23.8s
8 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +30.1s
9 Katsuta (Toyota) +45.2s
10 Ostberg (Citroën) +1m46.4s