Rovanpera marks his WRC return with Rally Sweden opening stage win

Rovanpera marks his WRC return with Rally Sweden opening stage win

World Rally Champion Kalle Rovanpera claimed the opening stage win in Rally Sweden on Thursday night, kicking off his comeback to the WRC in grand fashion.

Rally Sweden marks the second round of the 2024 FIA World Rally Championship as the event kicked off with a short 5.16 km stage which saw Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen win by 1.4 seconds aboard the Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris Rally1.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville held command of the championship early on, so starting seventh on the road was bound to give Rovanpera an advantage as the Belgian Monte winner served as a snowplough for the trailing cars.

“This one is always tricky, it’s a really hard place because it’s so icy,” Rovanpera said. “It’s never easy to judge the grip but it was OK. Tomorrow should be even more fun.”

On the first super special stage held under lights, Toyota pulled off a 1-2-3 finish as Takamoto Katsuta came in 1.4 seconds adrift his teammate to secure second place. Elfyn Evans, who began the race second on the road, finished third in the quickest time, 0.6 seconds slower than Rovanpera.

Ott Tanak of Hyundai and Adrien Fourmaux of M-Sport delivered identical times and tied for fourth place with a 2.1-second deficit. Championship leader and first on the road Thierry Neuville struggled to get his i20 N to gain traction and as a result the Belgian finished sixth, 2.7 seconds behind the stage winner.

“I don’t get the power on the ground, to be honest,” Neuville said. “We have to work a bit on the car to get more traction tomorrow.”

On his part-time return to the championship, Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi finished in seventh place, 4.6s adrift which was surprisingly slow compared to his rivals.

M-Sport’s Gregoire Munster finished eighth in his Rally1 Puma as the leading Rally2 contender Oliver Solberg finished ninth, 0.4 seconds behind. Roope Korhonen rounded out the top 10 in the Toyota GR Yaris Rally2.

Rally Sweden resumes on Friday with teams taking on seven stages.

Leave a Reply