Tanak triumphs in Sweden

Estonian driver Ott Tanak (2nd R) and his co-driver Martin Jarveoja celebrate their victory in the Rally Sweden at Torsby, Sweden, Sunday. — Reuters

TORSBY, Sweden — Estonia's Ott Tanak took the lead in the world rally championship for the first time in his career with victory in the Rally of Sweden Sunday.

The Toyota driver went into the closing stage with a near one minute cushion after Friday's overnight leader Teemu Suninen crashed out after hitting a snow bank.

He avoided any similar misfortune on roads covered by snow and ice to take the win by 53.7sec.

"Incredible, I'm so happy at what we've finally done," said Tanak who was notching up his first win in Sweden and seventh overall.

"We have a very strong team and it's great for us to have this kind of result at the beginning of the season."

Finland's Esapekka Lappi in a Citroen C3 edged second by three seconds from Thierry Neuville behind the wheel of a Hyundai.

Tanak, who arrived in Sweden in third in the drivers' race, won the final power stage to claim five bonus points to top the standings on 47 points ahead of Neuville (40) and Monte Carlo winner and champion Sebastien Ogier (31), who had a difficult weekend finishing over 25 minutes adrift.

"Today it was about saving the tyres for the power stage and to give it a big push. We had a very good run and everything was working really well, so I was really comfortable in the car," added Tanak.

The world rally championship moves on to Mexico next month for the third leg of the season. — AFP