Rally Sweden: Day 2 Katsuta competing for the lead with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

2024.2.16 (Fri)

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team’s Takamoto Katsuta produced an excellent performance in extreme winter conditions to end the first full day of Rally Sweden in second place overall and just 3.2 seconds from the lead.

Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)
Car 18 (Takamoto Katsuta, Aaron Johnston)

After claiming the early lead in Thursday night’s opening Umeå Sprint stage, Kalle Rovanperä won the first stage of Friday morning and led by 5.7 seconds over team-mate Katsuta after SS3. Unfortunately, in a tricky SS4 that caught out a number of drivers, Rovanperä spun after contact with a snow bank, causing radiator damage and forcing him to stop for the day. With the damage repaired, he will restart tomorrow.

Katsuta made it through the morning cleanly, recording the fastest time in SS4 and taking over the rally lead by 11.4s. Elfyn Evans had a high-speed 360-degree spin in SS3 but recovered well without losing much time and ended the morning just 1.9s further back from the lead in third.

The afternoon loop of stages brought more difficult conditions with heavy snowfall, which meant that the road became faster with each car that swept past, with additional challenges coming in the final two stages that were run in darkness. Katsuta handled these challenges well to lose only a small amount of time to Esapekka Lappi (Hyundai) who was running two cars behind him.

In the deep snow, Evans was at a greater disadvantage from his road position, especially after he was forced to open the road from the second stage of the afternoon onwards. He ended the day fifth overall, 30 seconds from third place.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Team Principal)

“It’s been more than 10 years since I can remember having such heavy snow on Rally Sweden. It’s been very tricky out there for the drivers, especially those who were opening the road. Kalle made a good start this morning and had everything to fight for the win, but unfortunately he made a mistake. Of course, it’s disappointing, but it’s a part of rallying that these things happen when you’re pushing to win. With his road position in these conditions, I think Elfyn drove really smart and did a great job. Taka also did a really good drive today. Tomorrow should be easier for him with better conditions, and I’m sure it’s going to be a good fight between him and Esapekka – hopefully until the end of the rally.”

Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It is a big pity that our day ended so early. We were having a good start to the rally and a good chance to fight for the win. The conditions were tricky with the heavy snowfall and the grip levels were changing quite a lot. We just went a bit wide in a right-hand corner. I think some drivers in front had already touched the bank so there was a big hole in it which just kicked us into a spin. We damaged the radiator and also picked up a puncture in the same moment, and although we could make some repairs we unfortunately could not continue today. I’m sorry for the team, but there are a lot of points available on Sunday and we will try to bring them home.”

Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“The conditions have been very, very difficult today. Even this morning, the visibility was low on the first stage and then after that there was a lot of loose snow and quite low grip. We had a high-speed spin in the second stage this morning and were quite lucky to get away with that as we did. It was looking a bit better for us at the end of the morning but then the weather took a turn for the worse this afternoon. The sheer volume of snow didn’t make it easy, especially once we were opening the road on the last three stages, because when conditions are this extreme it makes a big difference. Of course we hope for better conditions tomorrow.”

Takamoto Katsuta (Driver car 18)
“It's been really tough today with the conditions. Even on the first pass this morning there was a lot of snow and it just got more and more during the day. This morning I just tried to find a rhythm where we felt comfortable. We avoided big risks and this paid off pretty well. Then this afternoon was very difficult as we expected, and it was hard to stay on the road sometimes. I was trying to follow the lines but sometimes there was no line at all. I had to push to not lose too much time with Esapekka being two cars behind us: in the end we couldn’t quite keep the position but we’re still pretty close to the lead with two days to go. Let’s keep pushing.”

End of day two (Friday):
1 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) 58m18.8s
2 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +3.2s
3 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +1m20.7s
4 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +1m26.3s
5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m50.0s
6 Georg Linnamäe/James Morgan (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +1m50.1s
7 Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +2m05.8s
8 Roope Korhonen/Anssi Viinikka (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +2m08.6s
9 Mikko Heikkilä/Kristian Temonen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +2m19.0s
10 Lauri Joona/Janni Hussi (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +2m45.7s
51 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +49m42.9s
(Results as of 20:00 on Friday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)

What's next?
Saturday is the longest day of the rally featuring 125.96 competitive kilometres. It has a similar format to Friday with a trio of repeated tests beginning with the all-new Vännäs, followed by the familiar Sarsjöliden, while Bygdsiljum includes some of 2023’s Botsmark stage. A double-length version of the Umeå stage rounds out the day.

Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)
Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)
Takamoto Katsuta
Takamoto Katsuta

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