Ott Tanak of Estonia won the first two stages of the Arctic Rally on Friday, to end the opening day 16.2 seconds ahead of Hyundai teammate Craig Breen.
Tanak had already set the fastest time in the shakedown, and was quickest in the snow in the two tire-punishing stages run after nightfall.
Ireland’s Breen was second in the opening stage and third in the second one.
Kalle Rovanpera of Finland drove his Toyota into a snowbank on the first stage, but still finished third and went one better in the closing stage to end the day in third place, 20.4 seconds back.
Tanak said that the surface was demanding.
“I tried to be very nice to the tires at the beginning and after 10km, I thought: ‘The tires are finished,’ but I knew there was still 20km to go,” he said. “I tried to be as nice as possible, but it was difficult. It’s just such a hard surface.”
“The stage is in really bad condition with a lot of gravel, so my front tires are completely gone and I lost a lot of time at the end. If somebody can manage their tires really good, they will be really quick,” Rovanpera said.
Reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier, who won the season opening Monte-Carlo Rally in his native France, was ninth in both stages and finished the day ninth overall, nearly 50 seconds behind Tanak.
“I did what I could, but it was quite difficult,” the Toyota driver said. “We’ll see what we can do tomorrow, but it looks like we will be quite far away already.”
Yesterday, six stages were on the program over 144km through the snow-covered forests of Lapland.
The Arctic Rally replaces Rally Sweden, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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