Kalle Rovanpera crashes out of Rally Sweden lead

Kalle Rovanpera crashes out of Rally Sweden lead

Kalle Rovanpera blamed extreme conditions for the crash that knocked him off the Rally Sweden lead as he made his World Rally Championship return.

Reigning two-time world champion Kalle Rovanpera impressed as he marked his first start of the season in his part-time program for Toyota this year after he was fastest on two of the first three stages of Rally Sweden.

Rovanpera held a 5.7-second lead over his Toyota teammate after winning the super special on Thursday night and stage two on Friday morning but trouble unfolded in stage 4 when he suffered a crash.

As the snow began to descend during the stage, Rovanpera ran wide in an incident that was not captured by television cameras and his GR Yaris rammed into a snowbank suffering radiator damage in remarkably similar circumstances to Ott Tänak’s similar retirement on the same stage.

“We had a spin which then broke the radiator at the same time,” said Rovanpera. “We also had a puncture in the same moment and we fixed all those in the stage, but we had to unfortunately retire.

“So it’s a big shame, finally having a good start and also a good chance to fight for the win. Sorry for the team that we couldn’t bring some good points for them this weekend.”

Conditions proved challenging through the Friday morning stages due to early morning fog and continuous snowfall resulting in visibility being particularly poor. The effect of road sweeping on the stages was also lessened by the snow falling.

“It was tricky, of course, heavy snowfall all the time also,” he added. “It was quite a similar moment to what Ott had also – I saw his video. Really similar moment, just going a bit wide.

“I think some guys in front of me already touched the bank quite a lot, so there was a big hole in the bank. I drop in the hole and the bank just kicks us over.

“Not, let’s say, a huge moment. We spin basically 360 [degrees], but the radiator gone and also the puncture at the same time. So we would have lost time anyway, but unfortunately we couldn’t bring the car back.”

This comes as Rovanpera entered the first round of his reduced 2024 WRC campaign with Toyota as the clear favorite to win this weekend’s Rally Sweden. Despite leading the rally, the 23-year-old was feeling disappointed with his driving and was hoping to capitalize on his favourable road position.

It is anticipated that Rovanpera will return to action on Saturday, albeit this time with the goal of earning points in the new Super Sunday format.

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