M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Teemu Suninen and Marko Salminen lead the way at Rally Sweden – the young Finn claiming two stage wins on his way to leading an FIA World Rally Championship event for the first time in his career.
But if Suninen was showing his class, so was his EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC. Securing more stage wins than any other manufacturer so far this weekend, the Fiesta set the fastest time on four of today’s seven speed tests.
Two of those fastest times belonged to Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin whose performance had them ruing an earlier mistake when a high-speed spin cost them close to half a minute on the first stage of the day (SS2).
Regrouping with impressive pace, the Welshman climbed from 11th to fourth and remains just 10.8 seconds adrift of the podium positions.
Pontus Tidemand endured a difficult morning but regrouped with promising pace. The Swede suffered an issue with a throttle pedal sensor, but was quick on the pace this afternoon – setting the fourth fastest time through the second pass of Hof-Finnskog (SS5).
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“We said we would bounce back after Monte and that is exactly what we have done. Teemu has been sensational today and it’s been a real coming of age performance. His speed was impressive, but he’s also looked really comfortable behind the wheel and kept his cool to maintain his lead at the end of the day.
“Elfyn has also shown great speed with a couple of stage wins. It’s a shame he lost time this morning otherwise he would have been right there with Teemu! Pontus can also be happy with his day. He had some technical issues this morning, but bounced back with some promising times this afternoon.
“I think a few people may have discounted us even before this rally got underway, but we knew we had the car and the drivers to deliver a strong result. We’ve not stopped developing this car and we’ve not stopped believing in the potential of our young team.
“There’s still a long way to go and we know that the guys behind will be pushing hard, but we have every chance of delivering a really strong result this weekend.”
Teemu Suninen (1st) said:
“To be leading my first rally is an amazing feeling. We didn’t make any big mistakes and had really good pace all day so we can be happy with that. It was just a shame that we made a small mistake with the lights on the last stage [SS8] – otherwise our lead could have been 10 seconds more than it is now!
“The car feels really good and I have really enjoyed the driving. We had a really good test in the lead-up to this event and the whole team was pushing the car to be better.
“Of course everyone’s target is to be the fastest, but we need to remember that there are still two days to go with some very difficult conditions. We need to keep going and concentrate on the driving. For sure Ott will be fast tomorrow, but we are in front of him and we will try our best.”
Elfyn Evans (4th) said:
“We didn’t have the best of starts and it was a shame about the spin on the first stage of the morning [SS2]. By the third stage [of the day, SS4] we had started to get into it and it went pretty well from there with two stage wins. The afternoon was really good and we moved up to fourth, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Pontus Tidemand (9th) said:
“We had some problems this morning but the car was working well this afternoon and I am quite happy with my driving. The speed of the guys at the front is really quick and I know that I still have a lot to learn. This evening we will try to look at what we have been doing well and what we can do better. We’ll keep going tomorrow and try to find some more.”
1. Teemu Suninen / Marko Salminen (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:11:05.3
2. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.0
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +17.8
4. Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +28.6
5. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferme (Citroen C3 WRC) +42.0
6. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +48.8
7. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +52.7
8. Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +53.1
9. Pontus Tidemand / Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:24.4