Ford Puma's Estonian star, Ott Tänak, started Saturday's Rally Sweden in second place, 4.6 seconds behind the leading Irishman and Hyundai driver, Craig Breen. When Umeåsprinten's arena show framed the winter-beautiful Saturday and seven special stages for customers, Tänak went into the closing Sunday with an 8.6-second lead over Breen.
Thierry Neville and Kalle Rovanperä shadow third and fourth in summary, respectively 23.7 and 27.5 seconds behind the top duo.
In other words, it’s set for a dramatic Sunday finish with Västervik SS 16 and 17 and the power stage that finishes at The Red Barn Arena in central Umeå.
Tänak had to toil hard on the sprint stretch in Umeå on Saturday evening with only a single slick tire that created a hold on his Ford Puma.
Nevertheless, he created a gap between Sävar SS 14 and Umeå SS 15 as Breen bounced between the snowbanks and lost a few seconds.
– We’ll see what happens tomorrow. Now it’s about holding together the last three stages on Sunday, said Tänak.
Saturday’s Rally Sweden around Umeå and its surroundings offered icy and stone-hard winter roads and showed a winter rally at its best.
On the 13th stage, the second time around Norrby, things got dramatic at the end of the scene when some top drivers hit the snow banks.
Esapekka Lappi – who had a third place in the summary – got stuck in the snow bank for seven minutes.
– We had a slight vibration. It thought it was ice on the tires. It stopped, and I thought it was gone, but the tire delaminated. I approached the final corner but had no grip. It has never happened to me before, says Esapekka Lappi, who got some fans’ help to get the car back on track again.
But the drama didn’t stop there.
The race leader Craig Breen also had some mischief with the left-hand side of the front but managed only to drop a couple of seconds, as did Kalle Rovanpärä, who spun and got himself organized again after three seconds.
The Swedish rally driver Oliver Solberg has a golden opportunity to win his career’s first victory in the WRC2 class. – It will be exciting, says Solberg in C More before Sunday’s conclusion.
On Saturday, the Skoda driver extended his lead to 56.6 seconds and now has the chance to take home the first victory of his career in WRC2 – the second-highest class – together with British map reader Elliott Edmondson.
– It’s not easy, the bar is very high, and everything has to be perfect. But no mistakes and good tires, and you’ll be fine. I’m ready for tomorrow. It will be exciting, says Oliver Solberg in C More after the last stretch.
Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby had an intense day and is now in second place.
Overall after SS 15
1) Ott Tänak, 220.127.116.11
2) Craig Breen, +2,3
3) Kalle Rovanperä, +27.7
4) Thierry Neuville, +27.7
5) Elfyn Evans, +55.2
1) Oliver Solberg, 18.104.22.168
2) Ole Christian Veiby +46.2
3) Sami Pajari, +1.08.8