“Great pace but the aim was to get the car to the finish and we’ve not even managed that on one stage. We said right before we left here, ‘It’s a long rally.’ Not this time, it’s a short one.”
M-Sport’s other driver, British hope Gus Greensmith, did the opposite to Sunninen — he was all at sea on pace, finishing SS1 43.4sec off and complaining of inconsistent handling — but at least he finished.
It was Toyota’s young charge Kalle Rovanperä who surprised many by being Tänak’s closest challenger in the rankings, 3sec back.
Rovanperä headed his two Toyota team-mates Elfyn Evans and Sébastien Ogier, who were third and fourth respectively. Ogier complained of intermittent brake pedal problems, attributing this to his lack of pace, though it wasn’t clear what the exact problem was.
Tänak’s Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville, driving with new co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe for the first time, was a little further back, 3.9sec off the pace.
Evans, Ogier and Neuville were separated by just 0.4sec after SS1. Hyundai’s Dani Sordo struggled, finishing 18.8sec down.
Onto SS2, and it was Tänak on top again. The Estonian lit up the timing screens, only for the impressive Rovanperä to do almost the same: he was 0.3sec behind after SS2, 3.3sec down in P2 overall.
“Obviously my engine engineers are making me on fire!” Ott Tänak
Tänak had initially failed to get off the line at the start of the second run, saying this attributed to his urgency.
“Obviously my engine engineers are making me on fire!” the Estonian exclaimed. “My engine stopped twice on the start and after two seconds already we were still stopped, so they made me on fire!”
The Estonian has said he feels he “knows this car now” and it shows, having an almost Toivonen like ‘oneness’ with his i20.