Thu 09 Feb 2023

Peerless Rovanperä grabs early Sweden lead

Kalle Rovanperä took the early initiative at Rally Sweden, opening up an early lead after a strong run through Thursday evening’s opening stage.

Rovanperä, who also posted the fastest time in shakedown, outpaced M-Sport Ford Puma rival Ott Tänak by 1.6sec in his Toyota GR Yaris, mastering the twists and turns of the curtain-raising Umeå Sprint on the outskirts of the host city.

The Finn is bidding for back-to-back Rally Sweden victories this week and will open the road on Friday. While that’s often seen as a disadvantage on winter rallies, this time Rovanperä’s early starting position worked to his favour, as the series of tight junctions were less rutted than they were for later runners.

"The conditions in this one were quite okay,” he admitted. “Some sections in the forest were a bit slippery with some loose snow, but all quite good. I just didn't feel like I drove so well - I tried to be clean and tidy but it felt like I was not fast enough.”

Third place went to Rovanperä’s team-mate Elfyn Evans, who ended 3.1sec off the pace. The Welshman will begin Friday’s opening leg just eight-tenths of a second clear of Hyundai newbie Esapekka Lappi, with an ill Thierry Neuville - also driving an i20 N - another 1.1sec behind in fifth overall.

Takamoto Katsuta’s cautious approach earned the Yaris hotshot sixth overall ahead of Craig Breen and Pierre-Louis Loubet, while WRC2 hopefuls Jari Huttunen and Ole Christian Veiby round off the overnight top 10.

Friday’s leg journeys north for two loops of three speed tests, split by a 30-minute service in the city. First up is Brattby (10.76km). It is followed by Sarsjöliden (14.23km) and a brand-new stage at Botsmark (25.81km), the second pass of which will be driven in darkness. Another blast through Umeå Sprint (5.16km) brings the day to a halt after seven stages totalling 106.76km.

  • 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.
Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM