WRC Sweden: Tanak reclaims lead from Breen despite tyre failure

WRC Sweden: Tanak reclaims lead from Breen despite tyre failure

The pair both survived tyre delaminations in consecutive stages across the afternoon loop, which had a significant impact on the fight for the lead.

Tanak ultimately emerged with an 8.6s lead over Breen, which he will take into Sunday’s final three stages. Breen had held a 2.6s lead overnight but lost ground across the afternoon.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville ended the day in third, 23.7s behind after winning a tense head-to-head with world champion Kalle Rovanpera, who survived an eventful Saturday, 27.5s adrift.

The pair shared the stage winning spoils as Neuville claimed three fastest times to Rovanpera’s two. They were however elevated into the podium fight after Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi exited third courtesy of a tyre delamination on Stage 13.

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans inherited fifth following Lappi’s problems, while M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet jumped up to sixth.

The second pass of the morning stages featured gravel rising up to the road surface and deep ruts to add to the challenge for the drivers.

The loop began with Rovanpera resuming his charge from the end of the morning loop. The Finn clinched his fifth stage win of the event to increase the pressure on Lappi in the battle for third overall.

Craig Breen, James Fulton, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

There was also movement in the battle for the rally lead as Tanak posted the second fastest time, 0.2s slower than Rovanpera, but more importantly 1.3s faster than leader Breen. The rally leader revealed that he had skirted with a snowbank, costing him valuable time that reduced his overall advantage to 1.7s over Tanak.

Neuville and Lappi both completed the stage quicker than Breen. The upturn in pace for Neuville took him ahead of Evans to fifth in the overall standings as the latter dropped 19.4s after two run ins with the snowbanks. The first occurred at the start of the stage and resulted in a spin, but the Welshman was able to recover to the reach the stage finish.

The leaderboard underwent a significant change following a drama-filled Stage 13, the second run through the longest test of the rally.

Rovanpera was the first to hit drama thanks to a wild high-speed spin. The world champion lost the rear of his GR Yaris at a left hand but was extremely lucky to spin into an access road. Incredibly, the 22-year-old shipped only 3.4s but the time loss in his battle with Lappi for third was to be negated moments later.

Heading toward the final corner of the stage Lappi suffered a front right tyre delamination, which appeared to fire him off the road and into snowbank, where he was stranded for seven minutes. A group of spectators eventually managed to free the i20 N, but the spin dropped Lappi from third to 12th overall.

Lappi’s team-mate and rally leader Breen was next to his trouble as he suffered a front left tyre delamination on a straight. The Irishman avoided the snowbanks but ended the stage 1.2 slower than rival Tanak, reducing his rally lead to 0.5s over the M-Sport driver.

Neuville won the stage to move within 3.7s of Rovanpera, the pair inheriting fourth and third overall following Lappi’s drama.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

The battle for the rally lead took another twist in Stage 14 as the advantage swung towards Tanak.

The Estonian produced a blistering effort, and at one point was 7.1s up at the third-split when he became the next driver to suffer a tyre delamination. While powering down a long straight the front left tyre let go which resulted in Tanak overshooting a junction.

The M-Sport driver managed to coax the Ford Puma to the stage end but ended up 0.8s slower than the benchmark posted by Neuville.

“Ask the Pirelli guys, it’s delaminated on the straight like the Hyundai guys,” said an angry Tanak when asked what had happened.

Despite the tyre issue, Tanak assumed the rally lead. Breen could only manage a time 2.8s slower than his rival, his 0.5s lead transformed into a 2.3s deficit.

There was drama of equal measure in the fight for third. Rovanpera dropped 3.6s to Neuville in Stage 14, which left the pair incredibly on identical overall rally times in a share of third.

Tanak was able to increase his lead in the awls final stage after Breen lost time to a wild brush with a snowbank before revealing he had been carrying issue with his i20 N all afternoon.

Neuville won the stage to pull 3.8s clear of Rovanpera to assume third position outright.

In WRC2, Oliver Solberg will head into Sunday with a 51.6s lead over Ole Christian Veiby.

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