Kalle Rovanperä secured an emphatic victory at Rally Sweden on Sunday afternoon – 21 years after father Harri claimed his sole FIA World Rally Championship win at the event.
The Finn scored his third career success by 22.0 sec after Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans crashed out in a snowbank on the final morning. Rovanperä leads the series by 14 points after round two of 13.
Rovanperä was only four months old when his father triumphed at the WRC’s only pure winter fixture in 2001 in a Peugeot 206 World Rally Car.
Five different drivers led during a fast and furious opening day near Umeå in the most northerly Rally Sweden ever. Rovanperä regained the initiative early on the second leg, but Evans remained hot on his heels before his untimely exit.
“I didn’t think we could be this good, especially starting first on the road on Friday,” enthused Rovanperä. “It was quite a big job but the team did a great job also and the car was great all the time. I feel so much more confident now.”
“I didn’t feel like celebrating too much now. It has been a really difficult weekend for the people in Ukraine and I really hope they have the strength and hope in these difficult times,” he added.
Evans was fighting to overcome a 10 sec penalty imposed late on Saturday night when he slammed into a snowbank in Sunday’s opening speed test. The front of his car was damaged too badly to continue.
After a disappointing opening round last month, second place for Thierry Neuville provided a timely boost for Hyundai Motorsport. The Belgian survived a couple of brushes with the snowbanks in his i20 N and he kept a chasing Esapekka Lappi at bay.
Lappi, back in Toyota Gazoo Racing’s line-up after a three-year absence, eventually finished 8.6 sec behind Neuville to promote the Japanese marque into top spot in the manufacturers’ championship, 24 points ahead of M-Sport Ford.
Takamoto Katsuta made it three GR Yaris cars in the top four, a further 1 min 48.8 sec adrift. Gus Greensmith overcame a troubled opening leg, when a trip into the snow and gearbox problems delayed him, to end fifth in a Ford Puma.
Oliver Solberg was in the midst of the lead battle on the opening day, but throttle problems on his i20 N cost time on Saturday and he dropped to sixth.
The series pauses for an early-season break before returning at the Croatia Rally on April 21-24. The asphalt event is based in capital city Zagreb.
1. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota GR Yaris 2 hr 10 min 44.9 sec
2. T Neuville / M Wydaeghe BEL Hyundai i20 +22.0 sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota GR Yaris +30.6 sec
4. T Katsuta / A Johnston GBR Toyota GR Yaris +2 min 19.4 sec
5. G Greensmith / J Andersson GBR Ford Puma +3 min 20.4 sec
6. O Solberg / E Edmondson SWE Hyundai i20 +5 min 39.4 sec
FIA World Rally Championship (after round 2 of 13)
1. K Rovanperä 46 pts
2. T Neuville 32 pts
3. S Loeb 27 pts
1. Toyota Gazoo Racing 83 pts
2. M-Sport Ford 59 pts
3. Hyundai Shell Mobis 47 pts
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of Red Bull Media House GmbH