On Thursday morning, Kalle Rovanpera set a blistering record fastest time at Rally Sweden’s shakedown, narrowly edging Ott Tanak by three tenths of a second.
World Rally Championship leaders Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen set the benchmark time on Thursday’s Rally Sweden shakedown stage after finishing round two’s prelude three tenths of a second faster than their closest Rally1 competitors Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja in the prevailing snowy conditions.
After a week of sub-zero weather in the Västerbotten region, where the FIA World Rally Championship’s second round is held, the temperature hovered around 0°C for shakedown, with rain and sleet.
Driving the hybrid-powered Toyota GR Yaris Rally1, the 21-year-old Finn stormed through the ultra-fast 7.59km Klabböle speed test, near to the event’s new Ume headquarters, at an average speed of 135kph.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing teammates put in their best performance across the 4.74-miles of ‘Klabbole,’ breaking the timing beam in three minutes 22.4 seconds on their third and final run.
“The feeling was quite positive straight way,” Rovanpera told WRC.com.
“Even through we were the first car on the road, I think the small rain was helping us a bit to really freeze the road a bit more and it was not so bad in the first pass. Overall, a quite positive feeling.”
Ott Tanak was hot on the tails of the youthful Finns. The 2019 champion’s decision to return to WRC with co-driver Martin Jarveoja before the third run to make set-up modifications paid off nicely.
Given his favorable road position for tomorrow’s opening stage, Tanak – the winner of last year’s Arctic Rally Finland – is regarded as one of the favorites to win the only snow rally on the WRC season.
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville rounded out the top three despite becoming stuck in a snowbank just 2.56 miles into his first ‘Klabbole’ run which saw him lose four minutes. However, he was able to continue and he kept his best for last, like Rovanpera and Tanak.
“I basically got caught under braking,” the Belgian explained, noting that he was eight tenths slower than Rovanpera.
Takamoto Katsuta finished fourth fastest alongside Aaron Johnston, the Japanese driver putting his snow and ice knowledge gained while living across the border in Finland to good use.
Craig Breen of M-Sport Ford had a similar off-road experience to Neuville as he finished fifth 2.3 seconds behind the leader, with his teammate Gus Greensmith a further four tenths of a second behind him in sixth.
Elfyn Evans, who has finished second in the WRC for the previous two seasons, set the same time as Hyundai’s Oliver Solberg, one tenth faster than Esapekka Lappi, who is making his Rally1 debut this weekend with Toyota.
Adrien Fourmaux of M-Sport Ford rounded out the top ten in the Puma he helped engineers build back in Cockermouth after his harrowing crash on last month’s Rallye Monte Carlo. The gifted Frenchman worked on the hybrid unit, cross members, and suspension arms, among other things.
Rally Sweden kicks off tomorrow morning at 7.42 a.m. with the ‘Krokosjo’ stage. Crews will compete in a total of seven unique stages covering a competitive distance of 78.5 kilometers.