Elfyn Evans has retired from Rally Sweden on the first stage of Sunday, clouting a snowbank after oversteering in a quick section and heavily damaging the front of his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1.
Evans, who started the stage 18.3 seconds down on rally leading team-mate Kalle Rovanperä, has had a fraught 12 hours as he was originally supposed to start SS15 with just an 8.3s deficit.
But Evans was hauled into the stewards room and docked 10s for deviating from the designated rally route on Saturday’s final stage when he careered into a snowbank at the flying finish and powered onto an escape road.
He then headed into Sunday morning service with his internal combustion engine activated – not in electric mode as is required – because he had lost use of his hybrid unit.
But it all finally came to a head on the stage as Evans slid through a sweeping left-hander, smacked a snowbank on the inside of the bend and did a full 360° spin.
— M4S Rallymagazine 🇸🇪 (@motorsport4sale) February 27, 2022
The hood of Evans’ Toyota quickly flew up and Evans was fast to realize that he was in trouble, and parked up his car. He’ll score no points from Sweden.
Rovanperä was under little pressure out front but is now under even less with Evans’ retirement, and as if to prove the point he went fastest on SS16 to extend his lead to 23.9s over Thierry Neuville who is now second.
“We don’t even have the hybrid working on the car so I think the time is quite good,” said the rally leader.
Neuville, who lost 2.2s to Rovanperä on the stage, was unaware Evans was out when he reached the end of the stage: “The game is on but I didn’t have a perfect stage I can be better, we need to work a little bit on the chassis and I think we can continue pushing,” he said.
He pulled 0.7s out of a disillusioned Esapekka Lappi to head the Toyota driver by 4.9s overall; Lappi now back onto the podium due to Evans’ problem but frustrated not to be faster.
Craig Breen started first on the road for the second day in succession having retired on Saturday with a mechanical problem.
The M-Sport driver was in full conservation mode on the lightning-quick SS16 though, saving tires for the powerstage later. Breen even took the brave decision to carry no spare tires and save that little bit of extra weight.
Team-mate and fifth-placed Gus Greensmith admitted he was “nice and cautious” because “it’s important we get the points” from the weekend.
That’s because Adrien Fourmaux won’t score any points for the second WRC event in a row as he retired his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 on the road section to SS16 with a continuation of the engine problem that dropped him out of the top 10 on Saturday evening.
Oliver Solberg returned to full speed following his suspected throttle problem on Saturday’s final stage, setting a competitive third fastest time, just 0.1s down on his team-mate Neuville.
Takamoto Katsuta was another to opt for caution as he has little threat behind and little opportunity ahead, but he’s been promoted to fourth overall at the expense of Evans.
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 6m03.0s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2.2s
3 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +2.3s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +2.9s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +6.7s
6 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +11.6s
7 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +12.1s
8 Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Volkswagen) +24.2s
9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +27.1s
10 Egon Kaur/Silver Simm (Volkswagen) +28.1s
Leading positions after SS16
1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 1h51m29.7s
2 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +23.9s
3 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +28.8s
4 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +1m51.5s
5 Greensmith/Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +2m59.7s
6 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +5m22.2s
7 Mikkelsen/Eriksen (Škoda) +6m00.6s
8 Veiby/Skjaermoen (Volkswagen) +6m08.6s
9 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +6m33.1s
10 Jari Huttunen/Mikko Lukka (M-Sport Ford) +6m49.5s