Ott Tänak at the top of the podium in Rally Sweden 2023
February 12, 2023
Ott Tänak's consistency over all four days of competition brought him to victory in Rally Sweden in Umeå 2023. When the 18 special stages were added up, the margin of victory was 18.7 seconds.
The M-sports team's Estonian rally star was able to comfortably drive home the season's first WRC victory with Hyundai duo Craig Breen and Thierry Neuville as podium colleagues.
– This victory means a lot to me and is, of course, a massive success for the whole team, stated the 35-year-old, who undeniably paid off for the new group.
Tänak, who won the WC title in 2019, now had to execute in the WRC series’ only winter rally and was the one who mastered the snow and the roads around Västerbotten. His Ford Puma was stuck on most of the stages, and in the end, it was precise that that decided Rally Sweden in Umeå.
– Incredibly, our team can measure up to two such large factory teams as competitors, said a relieved Rally Sweden winner.
Powerstage Umeå SS 18 with a finish in an electric Red Barn Arena was never fascinating because the lead of 8.6 seconds to Craig Breen suddenly became 18 (!) seconds when Craig Breen missed the regrouping before the power stage by a minute and was sentenced to overtime.
But instead, Thierry Neuville drove into a snow embankment, lost speed, and the final standings were thus the same as before. The Belgian finished second in Umeå last year and was about to repeat it but had to settle for the bronze.
– It was separate from the planning that Thierry would lose time. Of course, I had no idea. “But it’s been a fantastic weekend as last year was horrendous,” noted the Irishman, who was undeniably the surprise of the weekend, taking home four stage wins and leading when the cars rested overnight on Saturday, Breen said.
Ott Tänak could certainly, just like any other day, steer his Ford Puma safely and also balance his tire choices in the best way. Ultimately, Ford’s poster name only managed to secure a single-stage win, the Botsmark SS 7. But stability behind the wheel carried him to victory.
Compared to, for example, last year’s Rally Sweden winner and reigning world champion Kalle Rovanperä who, despite his six stage victories, had to settle for fourth place 25.1 seconds behind Tänak in summary. It was a tough weekend for Toyota Gazoo Racing. Kalle Rovanperä had a tough time with, among other things, spinning, but at the same time, not quite keeping up with the three in the lead.
Elfyn Evans in fifth secures points for Toyota in the championship, but the Briton did not seriously have the speed to challenge this weekend.
Also, Takamoto Katsuta and Esa-Pekka Lappi did not have a successful weekend either, where both ended up in the snowbanks and lost a lot of time.
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