The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has made a tremendous start to Rally Sweden, with Elfyn Evans leading after the opening day while his team-mates Kalle Rovanperä and Sébastien Ogier are also inside the top four.
Although recent mild weather in the rally region means crews are tackling a reduced itinerary this weekend, temperatures well below freezing in the early morning meant the opening loop of three stages around the border with Norway were in a relatively good condition, allowing the drivers to push hard.
Fresh from his strong debut in the Toyota Yaris WRC on Rallye Monte-Carlo, Evans set the pace from the start, winning the first stage to take an early lead. He was fastest again on the third stage of the day, and increased his and co-driver Scott Martin’s lead to 8.5 seconds following the short Torsby Sprint stage at the end of the day.
Rovanperä is in impressive form in just his second start at rallying’s highest level, occupying a top-three place from the opening test. He moved up into second place on the day’s third stage, although a stall on the final test moved him back to third, 5.8s from second place. Ogier has also been consistently among the frontrunners, and is 3.5s behind Rovanperä.
Tommi Mäkinen (Team Principal)
“It has been a brilliant start to the rally for us. Elfyn is flying. It’s an incredible performance from him and he seems really comfortable in our car. We’ve seen an incredible performance also from Kalle. There is still quite a lot for him to learn about the car, and I’m sure there is even better speed to come from him during the rally. Seb is also in a strong position, so it’s been a very good day for us. It was difficult to say beforehand how it would go because of the conditions, but it’s been very good. The stages look to be in a nice winter condition and hopefully that will be the case tomorrow as well.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“The conditions were not that bad today, I think it was close to normal winter conditions. We could have good fun in some sections with good grip. It’s not been a bad day for us, but our team-mates have proven that we can go faster. It was not easy to start second on the road today, but that’s not the only reason why we have been slower. We need to be a little bit more committed in some places and maybe accept to take a bit more risk. The long-game is always important but we want to leave this event with as many points as possible. We’re going to try to make some little changes on the car for tomorrow and try to improve our pace if we can.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s been a pretty good day. The feeling in the car was immediately good this morning. It was quite difficult to know exactly how hard to push on the first stage: We had quite high grip, but it looked quite aggressive on the tyres. We tried to be quick but also relatively smooth and it seemed to work out pretty well. Now we need to try and do more of the same tomorrow. Nobody knows what the conditions will be like, so we have to adapt to whatever is put in front of us. I don’t think we’ll need to change much as everything worked very well today, but we’ll look over the data and try to find a few more seconds.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“Today was nice. The conditions on the stages were better than everybody expected. There was more ice and snow and the tyres were lasting well. In the morning loop we were doing really well and we had good speed. There were a few mistakes here and there, but we were learning more about the car all the time. The last one didn’t go so well as I stalled the car and we lost a lot of time. So that was not so nice, but hopefully we can gain back the time tomorrow. Let’s will see if there is snowfall tonight, as that would make the conditions quite different.”
End of day one (Friday):
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota Yaris WRC) 30m43.7s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +8.5s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +14.3s
4 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota Yaris WRC) +17.8s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.9s
6 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +23.6s
7 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +24.2s
8 Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +31.4s
9 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota Yaris WRC) +49.6s
10 Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen (Škoda Fabia R5 Evo) +1m45.7s
The route for the second day of the rally is identical to the first: beginning with the Hof-Finnskog and Finnskogen stages in Norway, before the Nyckelvattnet test on the Swedish side of the border and the short Torsby Sprint stage adjacent to the service park to round out the day.
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