Elfyn Evans leads Rally Sweden by 8.5 seconds ahead of Ott Tänak after the opening day of Rally Sweden.
Evans continued his strong start to the season with a pair of stage wins in the Norwegian forests to take control of the second round of the year ahead of Tänak, who won stage two and the day-ending blast around Torsby.
The pair had been separated by as little as 0.2 seconds after the SS2, but the defending World Champion dropped 8.5 seconds to the Welshman on the next stage after struggling with the mixed conditions with Evans setting a blistering time to extend his lead.
SS3 was also where Kalle Rovanperä shone and ended the Nyckelvattnet test second fastest, moving him up to second overall but a stall at a hairpin on the final stage on Friday dropped him vital time and back into third behind Tänak. He’s now 14.3 seconds off the lead.
Sebastien Ogier sits fourth going into Saturday in the third Toyota, with the Frenchman claiming to be suffering from running second on the road on Friday behind Thierry Neuville with Esapekka Lappi in the leading M-Sport Ford fifth.
The WRC runners are completed by Neuville and Hyundai teammate Craig Breen, who appeared to slow during a potential stage winning time on stage four to ensure he runs ahead of the Belgian tomorrow on the road, with Teemu Suninen and Takamoto Katsuta in eighth and ninth respectively.
Jari-Matti Latvala had a day to forget as he returned to the championship – he was already struggling for pace before a half spin on stage two dropped him more time. His day was then made worse after retiring ahead of stage four with engine problems.
WRC2 in Sweden is being led by Mads Østberg, who battled with Ole Christian Veiby throughout Friday to take an 8.4 seconds lead. Pontus Tidemand is third on his return to the series, 18.4 seconds behind Citroen driver Østberg.
Eric Lindholm won three of the four stages on Friday to lead WRC3, 7.7 seconds ahead of fellow Finn Jari Huttunen with Johan Kristoffersson in a Volkswagen Polo Rally2 third 20.9 seconds behind Huttunen. Class debutant Oliver Solberg, entering his first WRC event in a Skoda Fabia, is a solid fourth, 5.8 seconds behind.
The opening round of the 2020 Junior FIA World Rally Championship also takes place this weekend in Sweden and its runner up last season Tom Kristensson who has a 23 seconds advantage after the first four stages.
The young Swede won the opening two stages to take control of the class ahead of Mārtiņš Sesks, although the Austrian fought back with a time 5.1 seconds quicker on stage three. Lauri Joona lies third, 10.1 seconds behind the Austrian at the end of Friday.
Tomorrow sees a repeat of the four stages as the event continues with its severely reduced route.