WRC started its first journey north of the Arctic Circle on Friday morning with the pre-event shakedown. Now that the drivers have had a feeling for the road, they came back later to attack the first stages in the dark.
Written By DJ Byrne, Edited By Daniel Yi
Ott Tanäk set blisteringly quick times through the snow, taking a commanding lead over championship contenders, Kalle Rovanperä, Elfyn Evans and Seb Ogier due to issues for the trio. Rovanperä suffered a 10 second deficit after getting stuck in a snow drift while Ogier and Evans struggled due to the stage evolving and getting quicker.
In stage two, it was a similar story as Tanäk continued establishing a commanding lead over second-placed teammate Craig Breen who pulled off a surprisingly quick stage. At the end of the first day, championship leader Seb Ogier was not even in the top 5, lingering down in ninth place while teammates Rovanperä and Evans were up in P3 and P5 respectively.
Stage Three arrived, but this time the sun was up. This was a hectic stage as racers started making mistakes, but Ott Tanäk continued a flawless run, pulling out an even larger gap from his teammate in second place, Craig Breen.
In Stage Four they got out of the forest and could push even faster. Oliver Solberg impressed many, living up to his family name as the Swede pulled off a good performance here to move up to a very respectable seventh overall.
In Stage Five, with the sun setting again, concentration needed to be at the maximum. Unfortunately, Seb Ogier buried it in the snow with two corners to go. Although Ogier did finish the stage, his car suffered considerable damage and lost quite a lot of time. Ott Tanäk capitalized on this and continued to have a quiet but solid rally, extending his gap to 25 seconds as drivers behind slipped up. The most notable being Craig Breen, who fell behind fellow teammate Thierry Neuville and rival Rovanperä.
As Stage Six started, Neuville set some very fast sector times. Towards the closing stages, Teemu Suninen in the M-Sport gained time on the cars ahead, moving up into eighth place.
It was very much the same story in SS7 as Rovanperä closed the gap to overtake Neuville and closed the gap to Tanäk by another second. Despite all this, Ott Tanäk was not fazed, as he still had a 24 second lead.
Stage 8 was the calmest of the stages. The gap between Tanäk and Rovanperä remained the same and the only notable gap change was Elfyn Evans gaining on Craig Breen in fourth position.
As stage 9 started, Tanäk’s lead was nowhere under threat, with an impressive 23 second gap to second-placed Rovanperä. Meanwhile, Rovanperä and Neuville battled it out for second place while Breen and Evans fought for fourth place.
Power Stage (Stage 10/10)
Stage 10 was the final stage of the Arctic rally and the final shootout. The end of the stage caused multiple incidents in the snow drifts. Pierre-Louis Lombet found out the hard way as he got stuck in the snow banks at the final corner.
The Top 5 of the power stage
Top 5 Overall