Welshman Elfyn Evans is on a charge in Rally Sweden. The FIA World Rally Championship’s second round is taking place in an unseasonably warm Sweden (and parts of Norway), with a distinct lack of snow as in previous years. However, Evans and co-driver Scott Martin (Toyota Gazoo Racing) have kept their heads cool and clear to concentrate on their stage times to remain atop the leaderboard after a trying SS7 Finnskogen 2.
Evans is all too aware of the changing grip and road surfaces: “I wasn’t sure if we were too careful but it seems we are carrying good speed. Anything can happen, so we need to keep in this rhythm.”
Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT) lost another 3.6 seconds to Evans in that stage while trying to reel back the leader. The fastest of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC drivers all weekend thus far, Tänak – who previously won this event in a Toyota Yaris WRC – haven’t been able to break through Evans’ grip on event.
Tänak said after SS7: “Slowly, slowly. I can’t say I am feeling completely comfortable yet but I am doing what I can.”
Ogier set the third fastest stage time in his Toyota Yaris WRC, 3.9 seconds off Evans, and Ogier’s quickening pace has enabled him to leapfrog team-mates Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen.
Rovanperä’s pace is dropping slightly as he finished the stage seventh fastest overall. He had this to say: “I am trying my best and driving much better than yesterday, but the times aren’t there. I think I am losing some studs but I am not sure where I can preserve them.”
Evans extends his overall lead to 15.3 seconds over Tänak, with Ogier now in third place but some 25 seconds behind. Esappeka Lappi/Janne Ferm (M-Sport Ford WRT) hold fifth place, but are coming under increasing pressure from Thierry Neuville – who is only 0.8 seconds adrift.
The competitors next tackle Nyckelvattnet 2 of 18.94km.
Top Ten after SS7:
01) E. Evans (Toyota Yaris WRC) – 50m 02.6s
02) O. Tänak (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +15.3s
03) S. Ogier (Toyota Yaris WRC) +25.2s
04) K. Rovanperä (Toyota Yaris WRC) +27.0s
05) E. Lappi (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +32.9s
06) T. Neuville (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +33.7s
07) C. Breen (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +41.8s
08) T. Suninen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +56.8s
09) T. Katsuta (Toyota Yaris WRC) +01m 20.4s
10) E. Lindholm/M. Korhonen (Skoda Fabia R5 Evo) +03m 05.6s