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TOYOTA dominated the opening of Rally Sweden as Ott Tänak edged teammate Jari-Matti Latvala on the opening speed test at Karlstad trotting track.

PHOTO: Ott Tänak powers through the snow to the lead on the opening stage of Rally Sweden (Jaanus Ree/Red Bull pic)

Sweeping bends, a spectacular jump and a great atmosphere are the hallmarks of Karlstad’s Super Special Stage.

Tänak, driving a Yaris, defeated Thierry Neuville in their head-to-head heat on snow and ice-covered roads and stopped the clocks 0.3sec faster than Latvala.

“This is one of my favourite events and especially this year because there’s so much snow,” Tänak said.

“I enjoyed that stage a lot. More snow is possible tonight but whatever happens we’ll push hard tomorrow. Tomorrow is key for us, if we can manage that then the rest of the weekend will be more enjoyable.”

Finn Latvala beat Mads Østberg in their duel by 0.3sec, the Norwegian impressing on his Citroën C3 debut to hold third as competitors headed north to Torsby for an overnight halt.

Kris Meeke, driving another C3, and Hyundai i20 pilot Andreas Mikkelsen were tied in fourth, a further 0.3sec adrift. Neuville completed the top six in another i20.

Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi and championship leader Sébastien Ogier lost time after sliding wide on the same corner near the finish. They were eighth and ninth respectively but just 2.9sec covered the top 10.

Friday mixes stages in the snowy forests of Sweden and Norway. Two identical loops of three tests are followed by a final stage at Torsby. It adds up to 140.10km of competitive action.

Earlier, Hyundai i20 driver Thierry Neuville topped the timings in the 6.86km Skalla shakedown by 0.3sec from Mads Østberg, who impressed on his first appearance in a Citroën C3. Championship leader Sébastien Ogier completed the top three in a Ford Fiesta, a further 0.5sec behind.

Outright standings after day one (Thursday):

1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 1m32.7s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.3s
3 Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen C3 WRC) +0.6s
4 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +0.9s
5 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.9s
6 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.0s
7 Hayden Paddon/Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2.1s
8 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2.2s
9 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2.5s
10 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +2.9s

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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