Neuville: Lappi would have beaten Rovanperä

In a story of what ifs, Thierry Neuville backs his team-mate for the edge over Kalle Rovanperä on Rally Sweden


Could he? Would he? Who knows? Thierry Neuville knows. The World Rally Championship leader believes he has the answer to a question which more than a few folk asked in Umeå last week.

What if Kalle Rovanperä hadn’t spun in the Floda stage on Friday morning? He went in there out front by 5.7 seconds. If the #69 Toyota had made it through all 17.55 miles, would Esapekka Lappi have caught him and still celebrated his second ever world championship win?

Neuville has no doubt.

“Obviously,” the Monte winner told DirtFish, “Kalle was out of the race very quickly, but still, I think EP would have been capable – from his road position – to do a good enough job to end up in the first place.


Lappi was right on Rovanperä's tail before the reigning world champion crashed on Friday

“I mean, EP did a fabulous job. Once Kalle was off, he had a clever approach, he managed throughout the whole weekend his gap without making any mistakes and bringing home that second victory for the team in two rallies, which, yeah, is the same amount as we had last year on a full season.”

Neuville watched Lappi’s season ebb and flow last year. At times, he was looking to the Finn to find out how to drive a car he’d engineered for more than a decade. But ultimately, he knew of the struggles the Sweden winner went through as 2023 faded towards 2024.

Talking about Lappi’s Sunday win, Neuville smiles. He’s happy for his pal.

“It was a nice comeback,” he said. “I mean, obviously, he suffered a lot second half of last year and it was very demanding for him mentally as well. But, I think, yeah, as we can see with a good team around and the proper support from the team and the management, yeah, it’s possible to come back as strong as he was this weekend and that’s good to see.”