WRC Sweden: Breen holds off Tanak charge to lead on WRC return

Craig Breen leads Rally Sweden on his return to the World Rally Championship with Hyundai after seeing off a late charge from M-Sport’s Ott Tanak on Friday.

WRC Sweden: Breen holds off Tanak charge to lead on WRC return

The Irishman, contesting a partial season with the Korean brand, quickly gelled with the i20 N to chalk up three stage wins that helped the former M-Sport driver into a slender 2.6s advantage.

Breen’s afternoon push helped the 33-year-old snatch the lead from Tanak, who had held sway heading into the midday service. Tanak was however able to respond late on Friday with a first stage win of the season to slash Breen’s lead that had stood at 10.5s.

Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi will head in to Saturday in third, 11.2s adrift having leapfrogged overnight leader world champion Kalle Rovanpera on Friday’s opening stage.

After struggling for pace across the morning, Elfyn Evans ended the day fourth, 26.5s behind, but ahead of Rovanpera, whose advanced road position contributed to the Finn sliding down the order.

Rovanpera will start Saturday 31.1s behind and is the last factory Toyota in contention after Takamoto Katsuta retired due to damages sustained in a roll in stage 5. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet filled the top seven.

Deep ruts on the first stage of the afternoon, the second pass of Brattby, rendered the test as one that where survival was key.

The conditions appeared to suit Breen as the Hyundai driver produced a blistering time to reach the stage end 7.8s faster than his nearest rival M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet, who also clicked with tricky road surface.

Breen’s effort was enough to leapfrog Tanak into the overall lead.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

"I could probably be the mayor of Brattby at this stage,” said a jubilant Breen. “The car is absolutely on rails - I've never had anything like this before. More of that please.”

Tanak dropped 9.8s to Breen in the test as he came through fourth fastest behind Lappi.

The conditions favoured the latter runners as Rovanpera, first into the test, dropped 21.3s, and emerged slower than WRC2 leader Oliver Solberg and his class rival Emil Lindholm.

"Just before the stage I got a message that traction has left the chat,” smiled Rovanpera. "There was not much I could do - I barely survived the stage but it was really tricky.”

Neuville and Evans were among those just hoping to survive with the former vocal regarding the conditions.

“It is worse than any other year, it is so loose in there and the ruts are very deep, so you just try to survive,” said Neuville, who sustained bodywork damage to the front and rear of his i20 N.

Katsuta was however caught out on the stage as he rolled his GR Yaris after a collision with a snowbank. Luckily he and co-driver Aaron Johnston were able to reach the finish with heavy damage to the front and rear of the car.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

The pair reached Stage 6 but were forced to retire due to a leaking radiator that was unable to be fixed, despite stopping at a house on the route to source some water.

At the front, Breen resumed his charge in Stage 6 as the sun began to set, claiming his third stage win of the event. This time he pipped an improving Evans by 2.6s.

Tanak reached the stage end two tenths slower than Evans despite a ragged run, where the Estonian skirted with danger on several occasions.

Rovanpera was able to limit the damage of being first into the test, finishing only 4.3s adrift of Breen.

There was plenty of drama elsewhere as Lappi overshot a junction, which cost him valuable seconds, while Rally1 privateer Lorenzo Bertelli was lucky that a group of spectators were able to push his Toyota out of a deep snowbank.

After showing promise in Stage 5, Loubet suffered a suspected mechanical issue in the front of his Ford Puma that attributed to his 9.6s deficit in the stage.

As darkness fell, Tanak lit up the timing screens to clinch M-Sport’s first stage win of the year, slashing Breen’s overall lead to 6.4s.

The time came despite the Estonian struggling with his tyres as they penetrated through the snow layer and into the gravel road surface underneath.

Lappi maintained his pursuit of the leaders, 0.9s slower than Tanak but 3.2s faster than Breen.

Rovanpera was among the biggest losers on the stage as tyre wear played a part in losing 11.3s to the leaders.

The Finn ended the day in style by winning Stage 7 (Umea Sprint) with a 0.5s margin over Tanak, while Breen dropped 4.3s.

In WRC2, Oliver Solberg leads Sami Pajari by 8.5s. 

Rally Sweden continues with a further seven stages on Saturday.

Full results:

Cla Driver/Codriver Total Time Gap Interval
1 Ireland Craig Breen
Ireland James Fulton
41'26.7    
2 Estonia Ott Tanak
Estonia Martin Jarveoja
41'37.2 10.5 10.5
3 Finland Esapekka Lappi
Finland Janne Ferm
41'44.0 17.3 6.8
4 United Kingdom Elfyn Evans
United Kingdom Scott Martin
41'52.8 26.1 8.8
5 Finland Kalle Rovanperä
Finland Jonne Halttunen
41'54.9 28.2 2.1
6 Belgium Thierry Neuville
Belgium Martijn Wydaeghe
42'02.0 35.3 7.1
7 France Pierre-Louis Loubet
Belgium Nicolas Gilsoul
42'19.0 52.3 17.0
8 Sweden Oliver Solberg
United Kingdom Elliott Edmondson
43'42.9 2'16.2 1'23.9
9 Sami Pajari
Enni Mälkönen
43'51.4 2'24.7 8.5
10 Finland Jari Huttunen
Finland Antti Linnaketo
44'04.2 2'37.5 12.8
11 Russian Federation Nikolay Gryazin
Russian Federation Konstantin Aleksandrov
44'08.5 2'41.8 4.3
12 Norway Ole Christian Veiby
Norway Torstein Eriksen
44'10.9 2'44.2 2.4
13 Lauri Joona
Tuukka Shemeikka
44'29.2 3'02.5 18.3
14 Robert Virves
Hugo Magalhaes
44'34.1 3'07.4 4.9
15 Estonia Georg Linnamae
United Kingdom James Morgan
44'34.5 3'07.8 0.4
16 Bruno Bulacia
Axel Coronado
44'45.4 3'18.7 10.9
17 Fabrizio Zaldivar
Argentina Marcelo Der Ohannesian
44'48.6 3'21.9 3.2
18 Bolivia Marco Bulacia
Spain Diego Vallejo
44'53.6 3'26.9 5.0
19 Italy Lorenzo Bertelli
Italy Simone Scattolin
45'05.1 3'38.4 11.5
20 Finland Emil Lindholm
Reeta Hämäläinen
45'30.4 4'03.7 25.3
21 Finland Teemu Suninen
Finland Mikko Markkula
45'34.8 4'08.1 4.4
22 Jörgen Jonasson
Nicklas Jonasson
45'56.6 4'29.9 21.8
23 Poland Michal Solowow
Maciej Baran
46'01.5 4'34.8 4.9
24 Estonia Egon Kaur
Jakko Viilo
46'24.7 4'58.0 23.2
25 Roope Korhonen
Anssi Viinikka
46'25.3 4'58.6 0.6
26 William Creighton
Liam Regan
46'37.7 5'11.0 12.4
27 Rakan Al-Rashed
Dale Moscatt
47'02.0 5'35.3 24.3
28 Laurent Pellier
Marine Pelamourgues
47'09.5 5'42.8 7.5
29 Luxembourg Ricardo Romagnoli
Belgium Louis Louka
47'29.0 6'02.3 19.5
30 Diego Jr.
Spain Rogelio Penate
47'43.6 6'16.9 14.6
31 Miguel Zaldivar
Mexico Jose Diaz
47'56.3 6'29.6 12.7
32 Mauro Miele
Luca Beltrame
48'13.7 6'47.0 17.4
33 Daniel Alonso
Spain Alejandro López Fernández
48'26.5 6'59.8 12.8
34 Joakim Roman
Ida Lidebjer-Granberg
50'27.1 9'00.4 2'00.6
35 Raúl Hernández
Rodrigo Sanjuan
50'38.5 9'11.8 11.4
36 Roberto Blach
Mauro Barreiro
50'39.1 9'12.4 0.6
37 Nao Otake
Finland Marko Salminen
50'50.8 9'24.1 11.7
38 Yuki Yamamoto
Miika Teiskonen
50'57.6 9'30.9 6.8
39 Miguel Díaz-Aboitiz
Rodolfo Del
52'13.9 10'47.2 1'16.3
40 Tom Rensonnet
Loïc Dumont
52'49.5 11'22.8 35.6
41 Hamza Anwar
Adnan Din
52'52.2 11'25.5 2.7
42 Italy Luciano Cobbe
Roberto Mometti
53'50.9 12'24.2 58.7
43 Alexander Villanueva
José Murado
54'32.3 13'05.6 41.4
44 Kogure Hikaru
Topi Matias
55'36.2 14'09.5 1'03.9
45 Jesse Kallio
Jussi Lindberg
1:01'16.8 19'50.1 5'40.6
shares
comments

WRC Sweden: Katsuta retires after roll on Stage 5

Breen: Leading a WRC rally a “sweet” moment after 2022 "darkness"

The Mexico maestro keeps cool among the WRC chaos

The Mexico maestro keeps cool among the WRC chaos

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Mexico
Tom Howard

The Mexico maestro keeps cool among the WRC chaos The Mexico maestro keeps cool among the WRC chaos

How the WRC title fight ignited in Sweden's winter wonderland

How the WRC title fight ignited in Sweden's winter wonderland

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Sweden
Tom Howard

How the WRC title fight ignited in Sweden's winter wonderland How the WRC title fight ignited in Sweden's winter wonderland

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Monte Carlo
Tom Howard

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

Plus
Plus
WRC
Rally Monte Carlo
Tom Howard

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Plus
Plus
WRC
Tom Howard

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

Plus
Plus
WRC
Tom Howard

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

Plus
Plus
WRC
Tom Howard

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title

Plus
Plus
WRC
Tom Howard

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title