Lappi leads Sweden as Fourmaux fights Evans for second

A close battle for the lower podium steps rages on behind comfortable rally leader Esapekka Lappi


Esapekka Lappi holds a commanding lead going into the final day of Rally Sweden, as he seeks his first World Rally Championship win since 2017.

Having been handed a minute-and-a-half advantage when Takamoto Katsuta crashed on the morning’s second stage, Lappi drove cautiously for the remainder of the day to maintain an advantage of a minute and six seconds over the hard-fought battle for second.

The Hyundai driver has also provisionally earned himself 18 points under the WRC’s new scoring system, provided he finishes the rally.

“In terms of result and position where we are, it’s one of the best days, but in terms of how much you enjoy when you drive this kind of speed, it’s not really nice,” said Lappi, who had to balance a no-risk approach with maintaining concentration. “But, you know, I want to make it this way. I don’t want to take any risks.”

M-Sport driver Adrien Fourmaux lies second, so will secure 15 points if he finishes tomorrow. A strong performance all day allowed him to hold off the challenge of Elfyn Evans, despite a trip through a snowbank on the final stage when he misread a corner.

“I’m happy, I’ve done a really good day,” said Fourmaux, who is targeting a maiden WRC podium. “It was really enjoyable for me. Quite stressful sometimes, but really enjoyable.”


Evans lost several seconds at least on the last stage of the morning when his car brushed a snowbank, ingested snow and ran at lower power for the remainder of the stage.

The Toyota driver explained: “We had this error in the third stage of the morning loop and that was the most costly moment in the fight, I think, because we were six up on the split and ended up four down.”

Momentum had appeared to be with Evans until that point. But, as Fourmaux responded and with one eye on the day’s final stage on the ice of Umeå, Evans was unwilling to take too many risks on the afternoon’s second passes where gravel on the stages threatened to remove tire studs of the unwary.

Regardless of his efforts, Evans severely struggled for grip on Umeå, and lost a further 3.8s to Fourmaux despite the M-Sport driver’s hairy moment. He has a deficit of 16.7s going into Sunday’s three stages.


After his eventful day opening the road for much of Friday, Thierry Neuville produced a strong recovery on Saturday afternoon.

He had continued to struggle with the car’s setup on the morning loop, ruing a hampered pre-event test and shakedown. But Neuville changed his dampers at lunchtime service and set the afternoon pace, winning the final three stages.

Neuville lies fourth overall, limiting his points loss to likely title rival Evans to just three points so far. He is 59.1s behind the Toyota driver going into the final day.

Fifth overall is WRC2 leader Oliver Solberg. The Škoda driver had been third overnight after the drama of Friday but was predictably passed by the faster Rally1 machinery in more consistent conditions. With a big advantage over his WRC2 pursuers, Solberg was able to drive at “90%” all day.

Nearly two minutes behind Neuville, Solberg is more than a minute clear of Sami Pajari in sixth. Pajari was engaged in a day-long battle for second in WRC2 with fellow Toyota drivers Georg Linnamäe, Roope Korhonen and Mikko Heikkilä, with Škoda-mounted Lauri Joona clinging on to their coattails.

Pajari ended the day just 0.2s ahead of Linnamäe, with Korhonen a further 19.8s down in eighth, as each struggled for grip in the latter stages.

Heikkilä is another 16.1s back after suffering a broken suspension arm at the end of the day, which caused a spin. Joona completes Saturday’s top 10, another 38.1s back.

After their retirements on Friday, Ott Tänak and Kalle Rovanperä spent the day opening the road. They each set a fastest stage time in the morning, but clearly neither were enjoying their snowplowing duties.

The duo are both nearly 50 minutes down on Lappi in the overall classification and will hope to maximize their point-scoring through Sunday’s separate classifications.