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Thu 24 Feb 2022

Rovanperä reigns supreme in Sweden warm-up

Kalle Rovanperä set a furious pace at Rally Sweden’s shakedown to edge Ott Tänak by just three-tenths on Thursday morning.

The 21-year-old Finn blasted through the ultra-fast 7.59km Klabböle speed test, close to the event’s new Umeå base, at an average speed of 135kph in his hybrid-powered Toyota GR Yaris Rally1.

“The feeling was quite positive straight way,” Rovanperä told WRC.com. “Even through we were the first car on the road, I think the small rain was helping us a bit to really freeze the road a bit more and it was not so bad in the first pass. Overall, a quite positive feeling.”

After a week when temperatures plunged to -20°C in the Västerbotten region where this second round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes place, the thermometer hovered around 0°C with rain and sleet for shakedown.

Rovanperä will be first in the start order for Friday’s opening leg, usually a disadvantage at a winter rally, and took the opportunity to experiment with his set-up.

“Small things, what we tried to see how it feels. Of course, second pass conditions are always tricky in the snow and we will have big ruts tomorrow on the second pass, so we tried to find some compromise for that.

“Now some of tomorrow’s stages are maybe a bit wet, we do not know all the conditions yet. But if it is going to freeze up after the rain then it can be good for us. Let’s hope it helps us a bit more than what we would normally expect opening the road,” he added.

Tänak was fastest through the first pass in his Hyundai i20 N, before Takamoto Katsuta lowered the benchmark time on his second run in a GR Yaris. Rovanperä moved top of the standings on his third and final attempt as Tänak climbed to second.

Thierry Neuville ended 0.8sec behind Rovanperä in third in another i20 N, with Katsuta another 0.4sec back in fourth. M-Sport Ford duo Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith completed the top six in their Puma Rally1 cars.

Both Neuville and Craig Breen were caught out by the conditions earlier, burying their cars into snowbanks. Breen was stuck for two minutes on his second run while Neuville was trapped for more than five minutes on his first pass.

Pos Driver Car Time
1. Kalle ROVANPERÄ Toyota GR Yaris  3min 22.4sec
2. Ott TÄNAK Hyundai i20 N +0.3sec
3. Thierry NEUVILLE Hyundai i20 N +0.8sec
4. Takamoto KATSUTA Toyota GR Yaris  +1.2sec
5. Craig BREEN Ford Puma +2.3sec
6 Gus GREENSMITH Ford Puma +2.7sec
7. Elfyn EVANS Toyota GR Yaris  +3.0sec
8. Oliver SOLBERG Hyundai i20 N +3.0sec
9. Esapekka LAPPI Toyota GR Yaris  +3.3sec
10. Adrien FOURMAUX Ford Puma +8.3sec


“I just got caught under the braking,” explained the Belgian. “There was much more snow than on the recce and I just lost the grip and went wide and got stuck on a snowbank. It took some time to get out."

Katsuta was another to fall victim to the wintry weather in the first run. He hit a snowbank, filling the radiator of his GR Yaris with snow. When the engine temperature started to climb he drove slowly to the finish and the car was returned to the service park by trailer.

Checks ensured no damage and he returned to the stage for two more attempts.

The leading times were:

• Full coverage from Rally Sweden is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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