As the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC secured a second successive double podium, M-Sport have strengthened their lead at the head of the manufacturers’ standings – holding a 20 point advantage over their closest rivals.
Having won four stages and delivered an impressive performance over the course of the weekend, Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja were just 3.8 seconds adrift of the lead going into the final-day showdown.
Ultimately however, the pairing struggled to find the confidence-boosting rhythm they had previously enjoyed and had to settle for second place – reserving an elusive first victory for another day.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta WRC, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia secured a fine third place overall after being hampered by a less than perfect road position throughout much of the event.
Biding their time, the Frenchmen did what they do best and secured a strong haul of points for their championship defence.
Throughout the field, M-Sport’s range of Ford Fiesta rally cars have proved a force to be reckoned with – securing strong results throughout the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Two rallies and two double podiums – it’s an incredible result for the team and just goes to prove what a great package we have with the Ford Fiesta WRC. We’ve extended our lead at the head of the manufacturers’ championship, and it has been a fantastic start to the season.
“The momentum in the team is growing with every event. We go to every rally knowing that we have the potential to fight for the podium, and that is a real confidence boost.
“We’ve had success throughout the rally this weekend, and not only with Ott and Sébastien. In the WRC2 category, Teemu Suninen finished second with the Ford Fiesta R5, and in the two-wheel-drive class Daniel Röjsel was impressive – claiming victory by more than nine minutes with the Ford Fiesta R2.
“Needless to say, we’re extremely happy with the results this weekend and looking forward to another exciting battle at Rally Mexico in three weeks’ time.”
TÄNAK AND JÄRVEOJA
Equalling his best performance in the FIA World Rally Championship, Ott Tänak secured second position at this weekend’s Rally Sweden. The result also marked co-driver Martin Järveoja’s best ever result on what is only his second competitive outing at the sport’s highest level.
Having always performed well on Sweden’s snow-covered stages, a podium had eluded Tänak in the past but he was quick to put that right this weekend – securing four stage victories and challenging for the win.
As the field embarked on the final day of competition, just 3.8 seconds separated the Estonians from the top-step of the podium. Despite their best efforts however, they struggled to find the same rhythm which had made them such a formidable threat throughout yesterday’s stages.
Settling for second place, Tänak continues to enjoy his best ever start to an FIA World Rally Championship season.
SS16: 2nd (+7.1)
SS17: 2nd (+9.1)
SS18: 7th (+9.2)
Ott Tänak (2nd) said:
“I think it’s been a really good weekend for us. I had a new experience opening the road on Friday but when the conditions were more equal yesterday we had some really good speed. I’m happy with that and what we have achieved this weekend has given us a lot of confidence.
“Today, we knew straight away that Jari-Matti [Latvala] would be hard to beat. At the beginning of the first stage we knew that we didn’t have the same feeling as yesterday. It was a bit disappointing at the time, knowing that we had no option but to settle for second, but I’m still really happy with my weekend.
“It’s been a great start to the season and I have a really good feeling with the car. We’ve got a great package to build on and, although there is still some work to do behind the scenes, we’re ready to give it another big push in Mexico next month.”
OGIER AND INGRASSIA
Overcoming all the challenges that Rally Sweden had to offer, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia secured a podium result on what was only their second competitive outing behind the wheel of the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC.
Opening the road throughout the first day of competition, the Frenchmen were hampered by loose snow and a lack of grip but put all of their talent and experience to good use – keeping themselves within touching distance of the top results.
Embarking on the final day of competition, just 16.6 seconds separated the four-time world champions from the lead before an unlucky spin saw them fall adrift of the fight at the front.
Conserving his third position over the remaining speed tests, Ogier also secured four additional points with the second fastest time through the points-paying Power Stage.
SS16: 9th (+27.0)
SS17: 5th (+14.7)
SS18: 2nd (+1.2)
Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:
“It’s been a tough weekend so it’s great to be on the podium at the end of the rally. It was a really difficult weekend but we have to look to the positives and we’re taking some good points away from this event.
“I didn't have the chance to fight for anything more today as I made a really silly mistake on the first stage of the morning. On the first corner – just 50 metres into the stage – we were caught by the inside of a snowbank and spun. I knew I couldn’t fight for anything more after that, but looking at the weekend as a whole, I think we have to be happy.
“We knew at the start of the season that we would have a lot less preparation then everyone else. We still need some time to find a perfect feeling with the car but to see the results that we have achieved so far is really encouraging.
“We still need to do some work of course, but I think we have good pace and have had a really positive start to the season so let's see what Mexico brings.”
ELSEWHERE IN THE M-SPORT TEAM
Elsewhere in the M-Sport team, Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula came out on top in an epic battle for second position in the WRC 2 category. Quickly getting to grips with his new Ford Fiesta R5, the young Finn secured three stage victories en route to a fine second place on what was only his second ever outing at the Swedish fixture.
Bettered only by local lad Pontus Tidemand who hails from the rally’s Värmland region, Suninen had the better of a number of his vastly more experienced rivals and also secured 10th place in the overall standings – a promising start to his M-Sport debut.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta R5, Eric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas were learning quickly on a surface they have only ever experienced once before. Setting good pace and regularly challenging their Scandinavian rivals, the Frenchmen secured a fine fourth place overall in the WRC 2 category.
Teemu Suninen (2nd WRC2) said:
“I think we can be happy with our weekend. This was only my second time at Rally Sweden and I was quite happy with my pace and developed a good feeling with the car.
“We had a big battle with Veiby for second place today and it was good to come out on top of that one. The conditions were quite challenging and it wasn’t so easy to keep the rear of the car in the ruts, but we had a really clean run and everything worked out okay.
“Now I’m really looking forward to the next events and to continuing our progress.”
Éric Camilli (4th WRC2) said:
“I’m really happy with our performance this weekend. We had to learn really quickly as there is only one snow rally on the calendar and this is a surface that I really don’t know so well! I think we managed to do that and it was great to challenge with the guys who have a lot of experience on events like this.
“There were a few times when were on course for a really, really good time but we just lost some seconds in the final splits which cost us some stage wins. But I think we’ve made big progress on snow and I’m looking forward to the next winter encounter!”
ELSEWHERE IN THE SERVICE PARK
Elsewhere in the service park, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were running in sixth place after running wide and hitting a rock on the first pass of Svullrya (SS4). The mistake resulted in an unlucky puncture and cost the Welshman almost two minutes to the leading pack.
Opening the road for the remainder of the rally, the pairing fought back admirably whilst tasked with the arduous job of sweeping a clean line for the cars behind.
As the final day of competition got underway however, there was late drama for the Brits as their DMACK-clad Ford Fiesta WRC suffered what appeared to be an ignition coil failure over the opening stage of the morning (SS16).
Known for his expert mechanical knowledge, Evans refused to give up the fight and was able to repair the issue before the following speed tests. Thanks to his skill as a technician as well as a driver, he maintained his sixth place and a good haul of points.
In the RC4 class, Sweden’s Daniel Röjsel delivered a master class behind the wheel of his one-litre Ecoboost Ford Fiesta R2. Claiming victory by an impressive nine minutes and 26.9 seconds, the Ford Sweden supported youngster also won nine stages and was the highest placed two-wheel-drive competitor.
1. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:36:03.6
2. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +29.2
3. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +59.5
4. Dani Sordo / Marc Marti (Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC) +2:11.5
5. Craig Breen / Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +2:51.2
6. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5:26.6
7. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +5:31.2
8. Stephane Lefebvre / Gabin Moreau (Citroen DS3 WRC) +7:14.7
9. Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia R5) +9:11.1
10. Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta R5) +10:02.9
1. Jari-Matti Latvala - 48
2. Sébastien Ogier - 44
3. Ott Tänak - 33
4. Dani Sordo - 25
5. Craig Breen - 20
6. Elfyn Evans - 18
7. Stéphane Lefebvre - 10
8. Thierry Neuville - 8
9. Hayden Paddon - 7
10. Andreas Mikkelsen - 6
1. M-Sport World Rally Team - 73
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC - 53
3. Hyundai Motorsport - 40
4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team - 26