Fri 04 Mar 2022

The inside line: Rally Sweden

Fast, frantic and undoubtedly magical. We’ve just about warmed up after our trip to Rally Sweden’s winter wonderland. Join us now as we reflect on the hottest topics.

Star drive 

Had he really been out of a rally car for almost five months? You wouldn’t have thought so. 

Subbing in part-time for Sébastien Ogier, Esapekka Lappi had some big shoes to fill. The nature of Sweden’s high-speed special stages demanded a balance of commitment and consistency. And he had that in abundance. 

Lappi was a true team player, and his stage win at Kamsjön en-route to third overall gave Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala plenty to smile about.  

Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another five months to see him again…

Most memorable stage 

Saturday’s penultimate test at Långed was every rally fan’s dream. 

Riding on board with the crews as they tipped 200kph through long curves, sparse pine forests and under complete darkness; well, that’s what it’s all about. 

Kalle Rovanperä’s run through this one laid the foundations for victory as he stopped the clocks 4.5sec clear of team-mate Elfyn Evans. 

Go and watch the onboard on WRC+ and you’ll see where we're coming from.

Biggest surprise

After its rocky start to the season, many people had written off Hyundai Motorsport’s chances of winning any rallies early this year. 

Okay - so Hyundai missed out this time - but its i20 N Rally1 was definitely a force to be reckoned with. 

Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak shared six stage wins between themselves and their reactions at stage ends were polar opposites to those we saw in Monte-Carlo. What a turnaround.

Asahi Kasei Turning Point

One to forget

Big things were expected of M-Sport Ford man Craig Breen, but his rally was essentially over when he fired his Puma off into two snowbanks on SS2. There was no getting out of the second one, and that's where he stayed for the remainder of the day. 

Although the Irishman salvaged a stage win at Umeå 1, his Rally Sweden was definitely one to forget.

Photo of the rally

Here’s home hero Oliver Solberg lifting a wheel in his Hyundai at SS11. 

Note the hundreds of dedicated fans in the background who braved sub-zero temperatures to get a glimpse of their favourite drivers and cars. 

Best save

Neuville’s recovery at Långed 2 was the difference between him finishing second or third. 

Caught out under braking, the Belgian threw his i20 N into a tight left-hander a little too fast. A big sideways moment followed before the car rode along an infamous snowbank on the outside. 

Through luck or talent (probably a mixture of both), he kept the throttle planted and the car popped back onto the road with minimal time loss. Even Walter Röhrl would have been proud. 

Quote of the rally 

"I didn't feel like celebrating much now. It has been a really difficult week for the people in Ukraine and I hope they can find strength and hope in these difficult times."

No words needed. Rovanperä’s reaction after winning the rally demonstrated his maturity outside the car as well as in it. 

You’ll never believe it 

Less than two months ago, FIA Junior WRC winner Jon Armstrong was still chasing sponsorship to make it to the start.  

The Ulsterman arrived to the rally having had no pre-event test, but went on to win the category by just 2.7sec from Finn Lauri Joona. 

Number of the rally

121.5. That was Rovanperä’s average speed (in kph) across all 17 special stages. We told you Rally Sweden was fast.

Fun fact 

Rovanperä’s victory came 21 years after father Harri claimed his sole FIA World Rally Championship win at the same event. 

Rovanperä junior was just four months old at the time. Feeling old yet?

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