Thu 09 Feb 2023

Rovanperä edges Lappi in tight Sweden shakedown

Defending WRC champion Kalle Rovanperä laid the foundations for his Rally Sweden victory bid - pipping Esapekka Lappi to the benchmark time in Thursday morning’s shakedown stage.

The Finn blasted through the 5.45km Håkmark speed test, close to the event’s Umeå base, at an average speed of 115kph in his hybrid-powered Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, edging Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi by just one-tenth of a second on his third and final pass.

Rovanperä opened the road, usually a disadvantage at a winter rally, and, as a result, struggled with low traction on his opening run. He will also be first in the start order for Friday’s opening leg - something he believes will be a big challenge.  

"It was really, really slippy for us,” said Rovanperä, winner here last year. “There is a small line in the middle of the road, but it will be really tricky to open the road here. The conditions are not easy to be the first car."

For Lappi, second on shakedown was a welcome confidence boost after he finished eighth overall at last month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo - a result that, by his own admission, left him feeling frustrated. The i20 N driver topped the timesheets for much of the morning until Rovanperä’s late charge.

“The snowbanks are really hard, and you need to watch out a little bit,” the Finn explained. "In some stages you have lower banks, but they are mainly quite high. You need to know where you can lean the car.”

Takamoto Katsuta ended just two-tenths further back to make it two Toyotas inside the top three, with Yaris colleague Elfyn Evans a mere six-tenths down in fourth. Craig Breen, marking his first start since re-joining Hyundai over the winter, rounded out the top five another 0.4sec in arrears.

Breen’s team-mate Thierry Neuville was sixth and used the session to perfect his car’s set-up after his pre-event test was shortened due to illness. He headed M-Sport Ford duo Ott Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet, while WRC2 challengers Oliver Solberg and Ole Christian Veiby completed the top 10.

  • Full coverage from Rally Sweden will be 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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