Katsuta crashes out of Sweden lead battle

Toyota driver got stuck in a snowbank, handing minute-and-a-half lead to Esa-Pekka Lappi


Takamoto Katsuta’s hopes of a maiden World Rally Championship victory on Rally Sweden are over, crashing out of second place on Saturday morning.

Toyota’s Katsuta was lying second overnight, and cut into Hyundai driver Esapekka Lappi’s lead on the opening 10-mile run through Vännäs, closing to within a second.

But on SS10 Sarsjöliden Katsuta ran a little wide on a high-speed corner, over-rotated, and got sucked a long way into a snowbank. He and co-driver Aaron Johnston quickly jumped out of the car to show the OK board, then began attempting to dig themselves out.

“Obviously the condition was a bit more slippery than I expected,” Katsuta told DirtFish.

“Also I was carrying a bit too much speed. Straight away when I came in the corner the rear snapped and then I went wide, hit the snowbank, and then the front went inside the snowbank.


“So we were stuck in the snowbank and there was nobody except the marshals [to help us], so it was quite difficult to get out of the snowbank.”

As Lappi passed the incident, he immediately eased his pace, knowing he now held a very healthy lead of more than a minute.

“I’m really sorry for Taka,” he said, having been looking forward to a rally-long battle with the Toyota driver. “He had great speed last year, also this year maybe even better. A big shame but these things can happen. The banks can be your friend until you use them too much.”

Without a lead battle anymore, Lappi’s focus must now be on bringing the car safely home while maintaining concentration. “It’s going to be long day – and two days,” he admitted.


The battle for what has become second place hotted up as Elfyn Evans took time out of Adrien Fourmaux on both of the day’s opening stages. The Toyota driver virtually halved his 23.7-second overnight deficit to the M-Sport man on SS9, then took another 0.4s on the next.

Fourmaux, 1m31.6s down on Lappi, is now only 11.4s ahead of Evans as they head to the third and final stage of the morning loop.

Falling from third to fifth overall is WRC2 leader Oliver Solberg, who had a small excursion into a snowbank early on the day’s second stage. The Škoda retains a 43.2-second lead in the class over the Toyota of Georg Linnamäe.

After his travails of Friday, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville has climbed to sixth overall, albeit nearly three minutes off the lead. Neuville complained of a lack of traction on the day’s first stage, then found tweaks to his setup hadn’t helped on the next.

“We tried some different settings but a couple of surprises in there with loads of movement and hitting the ground many times,” he reported.

Opening the road today are Ott Tänak and Kalle Rovanperä, who both retired on Friday. Each has been right back on the pace, splitting the opening pair of stage wins.

Rovanperä was ruing his Friday mistake and the effect it had on his road position. “It’s not easy to enjoy,” he said. “Like we have a saying in Finland, from a stupid head, the whole body suffers so I can’t complain.”