Rally Sweden: Day 1 Rovanperä leads a flying start for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

2024.2.15 (Thu)

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has started Rally Sweden in style with a top-three lock-out on the first stage, as double world champion Kalle Rovanperä claimed the early lead on his return to FIA World Rally Championship competition.

Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)
Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)

The action in Sweden started on Thursday morning with the pre-event shakedown. Preparing for the first start of his partial 2024 campaign, Rovanperä set the pace after the early runs. After later times set by other drivers, he finished up fourth fastest with Elfyn Evans sixth and Takamoto Katsuta seventh.

The first competitive stage took place close to the service park in the host city of Umeå with a ‘sprint’ stage of 5.16 kilometres that starts on fast forest roads and finishes in a more technical spectator arena. Rovanperä set the fastest time by 1.4 seconds ahead of Katsuta, with Evans just 0.6s slower in third.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)

“This is a nice way to start the rally tonight in front of a lot of fans and with a good stage result for us. Of course, there is still a full weekend of rallying ahead. We have tried to prepare for this event as well as we could, and I believe our drivers are feeling confident and ready for the fight. Tomorrow will be a key day if you want to fight for the win: if there is fresh snow, the drivers running at the front of the road order might suffer and those who are further back may benefit. Kalle is looking relaxed and feeling good with the car and we are expecting him to be strong here. For Elfyn, it could be demanding running second on the road and he may need to just stay patient and see what comes.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It’s great to be back in the car and starting a WRC event again. We had a clean start: this first stage is always quite tricky because it’s iced up a lot, so the grip is not so high, and there’s a lot of junctions with heavy braking that you need to get right to set a good time. In shakedown the feeling with the car was good and so were the times so I’m quite happy at the moment. I’m excited for tomorrow: it’s going to be a fast and challenging day. I’m sure everybody will be pushing hard and that’s our plan too, and we’ll see where we are.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s never easy to start with a stage like this, which is quite unique compared to the rest of the rally. It’s watered quite heavily so it’s got a nice ice base, but that also makes it slippery with a lot of 90-degree junctions. I could probably have been braver but we made an OK start. Conditions in shakedown were pretty difficult on the first pass with quite a lot of loose snow around. After that we worked through some setup options: it’s always difficult to get it perfect here as conditions are changing so quickly. Tomorrow I think we can expect quite a bit of loose snow in the morning, and then in the afternoon a lot of ruts and gravel coming through, so then it’s a lot more about managing the tyres and studs.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“It’s always nice to be back on snow, and to start the rally in front of a lot of spectators in this first stage. It has very thick ice and it’s quite slippery, but I had an OK start and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. In shakedown the car felt good already on the first pass and the time was good because the car was working well. I will try my maximum and to find a good rhythm. I think on the first pass of stages we can push and enjoy the driving, and then the second pass can be a big challenge in terms of tyre management and working out just how much you can push.”

End of day one (Thursday):
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 3m18.3s
2 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1.4s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2.0s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +2.1s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +2.1s
6 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +2.7s
7 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +4.6s
8 Grégoire Munster/Louis Louka (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +8.4s
9 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8.8s
10 Roope Korhonen/Anssi Viinikka (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +11.8s
(Results as of 20:00 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)

What's next?
The first full day of the rally consists mainly of a loop of three stages that will be run twice either side of mid-day service in Umeå. The first and third stages of the loop – Brattby and Floda – are identical to how they were run in 2023, but the majority of the middle stage – Norrby – is new. Thursday night’s Umeå Sprint is repeated to close out the day.

Kalle Rovanperä
Kalle Rovanperä
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)
Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)

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