Lappi wins Sweden as Evans narrows Neuville’s points lead

Hyundai driver secures his first win since Finland 2017 as second-placed Evans outscored points leader Neuville by six

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Esapakka Lappi wrapped up a first WRC win since 2017 as he cruised to Rally Sweden success while Elfyn Evans overhauled Adrien Fourmaux to secure second position.

Ever since Saturday morning, when Takamoto Katsuta retired, Lappi knew the rally was his to lose, as he held a lead of well over a minute. That advantage remained north of a minute going into Sunday’s three stages, two runs through the 16 miles of Västervik and the six-mile powerstage.

Lappi was not worried about the additional Sunday points on offer under the WRC’s new scoring system. Content to drive at a very safe pace and secure that elusive second WRC win, he eventually won by 29.6 seconds.

“Crazy slow, but it’s worth it,” he said. “I’ve been hunting for this second victory for quite a while. I have to say a big thanks to Cyril [Abiteboul, Hyundai team principal] – he kept me in the team after a very bad second half last year. It’s quite a contrast from then until now.”

M-Sport driver Fourmaux had a similar outlook. Securing his maiden WRC podium was more important than getting drawn into a fight for second with the Toyota of Evans.

“It’s been two really hard years and we have never given up,” he said after securing third position overall. “So to be here on the podium in Sweden it’s really, really special.”

It was a different story for Evans, who is leading Toyota’s charge in the drivers’ championship. He needed every point he could get, especially after not managing to overhaul Fourmaux on Saturday, when the main batch of points were locked in.

Evans was second fastest through Sunday’s opening stage, easily eliminating Fourmaux’s 16.7s overnight advantage and pulling 5s clear. He then went fastest of all on the penultimate test as team-mate Kalle Rovanperä chose to save his tires for powerstage and not make Evans’s quest for maximum Sunday points too difficult a task.


Evans then fell less than 0.1s short of Rovanperä’s benchmark time on the powerstage after a couple of moments in the final corners, but still claimed the most points of anyone over the weekend – 24 of the maximum 30.

“Lost it all on the last couple of corners – not so good,” was his disappointed immediate reaction. “Overall, I guess we’d be happy with this result at the start of the weekend, and especially with what went on on Friday. So overall we can be relatively happy but still areas to work on.”

Evans’s likely championship rival Thierry Neuville was in no-man’s land in the fourth on the overall leaderboard, unable to challenge the cars in front and with plenty of margin behind. But the new Sunday points meant he still had plenty to play for.

However, he struggled with the car on Sunday’s opener, dropping nearly 20s to Rovanperä, before a better run on the second pass. A push through the powerstage ripped off the rear end of his Hyundai on a heavy landing as he fell just 0.2s shy of Rovanperä with the third quickest time.

Third fastest overall through Sunday’s stages meant Neuville pocketed 18 points for the weekend, dropping only six to Evans, and retaining the championship lead.

“We did what we could,” he said. “It was a challenging weekend for us but I’m happy with the points we get from the weekend.”


Having retired on Friday, both Rovanperä and Neuville’s team-mate Ott Tänak only had the Sunday points to play for. Rovanperä was in imperious form, winning the opener and the powerstage, to bag a total of 11 points.

“I didn’t drive so well on this stage,” Rovanperä said, despite winning the powerstage. “I think I could have been a bit faster with two spares [rather than one] because now one front tire was not optimal.

“Bit disappointing weekend – not what we came to do. We tried to bring as many points as possible [on Sunday] and also help Elfyn at the same time.”

Tänak could only manage fourth in the Sunday classification and the same position on the powerstage, earning six points.

“It’s been tricky this weekend,” Tänak admitted, who was forced to open the road throughout Saturday’s stages. “The mistake [on Friday] was very frustrating and after that it was even more. From my side, definitely too many mistakes to start the season.”

Katsuta was in a similar position on Sunday, but suffered a spin on the day’s first stage. It left him fifth in Sunday’s classification.

“I really need to improve for the future for the team,” said a very disappointed Katsuta, who looked set to battle Lappi for victory until his rally went south on Saturday morning.


WRC2 winner Oliver Solberg was fifth on the overall leaderboard, after dominating his class and running as high as third overall amid the drama of Friday’s heavy snowfall.

“Amazing – what a weekend with so much people and atmosphere,” said the home driver after clinching his second consecutive WRC2 win on the event.

More than a minute back, a very close battle for second in WRC2 – and sixth overall – was Sami Pajari 2.5s clear of fellow Toyota driver Georg Linnamäe.

Just 0.8s ahead at the start of the day, Pajari fitted used tires for Saturday opener, yet still extended his advantage over Linnamäe, who was disappointed with his drive, to 4.0s. He could then make the most of his fresher rubber on the final stages to end 2.5s clear.

Two more GR Yaris Rally2s, in the hands of Roope Korhonen and Mikko Heikkilä, and the privateer Rally1 version driven by Lorenzo Bertelli completed the top 10 overall.