Hyundai Motorsport has completed the first day of Rally Sweden with all three cars returning to Torsby service park undamaged. Ott Tänak leads the way for the team ending the day with a second-place behind Toyota’s Elfyn Evans.
Friday’s first two stages started this morning when they crossed over to neighbouring Norway where they drove through the forests around Finnskog, the road conditions were tough for both drivers and cars.
For the afternoon competitors headed back over to Swedish Värmland where the third stage was driven by the Nyckelvattnet lake, a stage where the drivers had to keep their heads cool to get through. The final stage of the day was the short Torsby Sprint, which runs just beside the service park at Torsby Airport.
“Not the kind of day we love to see. Clearly the starting order and the stage conditions have not been favourable for us, but this is not an excuse at all. Sure, it’s not a typical Rally Sweden but we compete in the conditions that are presented to us.” Andrea Adamo, Team Principal, said.
“Ultimately, the roads are the same for everybody; we simply should have been faster. We have to work harder to find more speed and performance. We have to remain focused. Tomorrow is a different day, although, sadly for us, another short one.”
After the tough crash in Monte-Carlo, Ott Tänak was back in the Hyundai and showed no signs of slowing down as he set the fastest times on two of today’s stages. He ended the day with a second-place as he passed Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä who spun at the first hairpin at Torsby Sprint.
“It’s been a good day. Conditions have been quite similar to the recce so we had an idea of what we would face. The start was not so bad. The first stage, especially on the gravel, was actually quite good. I felt nice in the car, it was in the icy places where I was not so confident.” Tänak said.
“The final stage of the morning was a bit more demanding. With only one day of testing in the car, I was not really full of confidence but it’s coming step by step. I am happy to have made it to the end of this first day; we will now analyse all that we’ve learned from today and aim to speed up a bit tomorrow.”
Unfortunately for Rallye Monte-Carlo winner Thierry Neuville the day didn’t go so well due to his starting position, he was first out at every stage of the WRC cars and he has to settle for a sixth-place after the first day. He struggled with understeer and traction for most of the day.
“It has been tricky to be first on the road today, but we’ve had a trouble-free run with no mistakes. I’m not happy with the overall classification but I am satisfied with what we’ve done in the car and with the speed. We couldn’t do much more. The first stage was quite consistent but the following two we knew would be trickier.” Neuville said.
“This morning, the layer of ice was very thin in places and the gravel was coming out, which gives more grip to the cars behind. There were also a lot of cuts, where I was the first to discover. This rally is so short, it won’t be possible to catch up a lot of time, but we will fight hard and see what we can achieve tomorrow.”
Craig Breen is making a comeback with Hyundai this weekend; he showed improvements at every stage but seemed to slow down just before the finish line which cost him the stage victory.
“It is great to be back in a WRC car; it’s been a while since Wales Rally GB. This is a different Rally Sweden to what we’ve seen in previous years, a much shorter event and missing a lot of the kilometres we should have been doing. As the day went on, I started to get more confidence.” Breen said.
“It’s always going to take a stage or two to get settled back in; fighting against guys who are in the car all the time, it’s hard to be flat out from the start. I really enjoyed it and I felt we were getting stronger with each kilometre. Tomorrow, it could be difficult to make much of a difference, but we’ll certainly try.”
Friday’s stages will be repeated tomorrow, and during the night snow is promised, so Hyundai drivers have to be prepared for more changing conditions on the roads tomorrow.