By Paul Evans
With such a shortened route, every driver had to be super-fast out of the blocks today if they were to stand any chance of winning Rally Sweden – and fastest of all was Elfyn Evans, who leads the event for the first time in his career tonight.
Evans set a blistering time on the opening stage, completing it 1.1 seconds quicker than Ott Tänak (Hyundai) and 2.9 seconds fastest than his Toyota team-mate and six time world champion Sébastien Ogier.
And Evans never lost that lead all day, setting another fastest time on stage three and two second quickest times on stages two and four to lead Tänak (the reigning world champion and last year’s Rally Sweden winner) by 8.5 seconds.
“It’s been a pretty good day,” said Evans modestly. “The feeling in the car was immediately good this morning. It was quite difficult to know exactly how hard to push on the first stage. We had quite high grip, but it looked quite aggressive on the tyres. We tried to be quick but also relatively smooth and it seemed to work out pretty well.
“Now we need to try and do more of the same tomorrow. Nobody knows what the conditions will be like, so we have to adapt to whatever is put in front of us. I don’t think we’ll need to change much as everything worked very well today, but we’ll look over the data and try to find a few more seconds.”
Positions at the end of day one (Friday):
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) 30m43.7s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +8.5s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +14.3s
4 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) +17.8s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.9s
6 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +23.6s
7 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +24.2s
8 Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +31.4s
9 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +49.6s
10 Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen (Škoda Fabia R5 Evo) +1m45.7s