Rovanperä dazzles in dark, Neuville to third despite error

As Saturday afternoon turned into evening, the top two upped the pace and Neuville tried to come with them


Kalle Rovanperä laid down a marker in the fight to win Rally Sweden, outpacing his closest World Rally Championship Elfyn Evans by 4.5 seconds in what’s becoming a two-horse race.

Evans had closed to just 1.2s behind his Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanperä on the first stage of Saturday afternoon, but Rovanperä was in another league on Långed.

Extending his rally lead to 5.7s may not sound like a big deal in isolation, but the scrap for victory has been ferocious and insanely tight all weekend.

“For sure I’m happy,” said Rovanperä. “After the first one of the loop the feeling was a bit down but I knew on this one I could push so I pushed quite much.”

Evans wasn’t as delighted: “I struggled with the car balance in here actually, struggled for confidence at the front end but OK.”


Thierry Neuville has interrupted Toyota’s sweep of the podium places by deposing Esapekka Lappi of third, but the Hyundai driver is beginning to slip out of the lead fight; 18.5s down on the leader.

He was impressively only 0.8s slower than Evans despite a hefty trip into a snowbank towards the end of the stage.

“I tried to push a bit more but there’s no way we can match the speed like Kalle was going,” he said.

“There was a small mistake which potentially cost us two or three seconds, but it’s very difficult to go faster.”

Lappi trails Neuville by 2.4s – 20.9s down on the lead – and was agitated by his performance.

“I made so many mistakes,” he said. “I really tried to push but it goes really nasty as soon as I tried to push harder. I’m hitting the banks and that’s just slow, so a big shame.”


Craig Breen has been running as first car on the road on Saturday after exiting the contest and into a snowbank on SS2, but has kept his nose clean on day two of the rally; even taking his first stage win for M-Sport.

But just a mile onto SS14, Breen’s Ford Puma Rally1 “lost power” and he coasted to a stop, parking up on the edge of a slight corner.

Ott Tänak, Gus Greensmith, Adrien Fourmaux and Takamoto Katsuta all passed Breen before he managed to get his Puma moving again albeit in electric mode only.

Breen coasted to a clearer access road and pulled off the stage, causing a five-minute delay before Oliver Solberg could begin his run.

His exit does little to affect the overall standings as Breen was nowhere due to his initial retirement, but it was yet another disappointment for M-Sport which has no cars inside the top six.


Adrien Fourmaux is the team’s leader in seventh overall, but he is only 6.3s up on the other Puma of Gus Greensmith who was the faster of the two by a healthy 5.9s margin on SS14.

Olvier Solberg and Takamoto Katsuta remain fifth and sixth overall, and for the first time all day Solberg got the better of Katsuta.

SS14 times

1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 8m53.7s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +4.5s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +5.3s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +8.0s
5 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +11.1s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +13.1s
7 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +13.4s
8 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +15.2s
9 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +21.1s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +39.2s

Leading positions after SS14

1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 1h39m14.3s
2 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +5.7s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +18.5s
4 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +20.9s
5 Solberg/Edmondson (Hyundai) +1m08.8s
6 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +1m38.5s
7 Fourmaux/Coria (M-Sport Ford) +2m33.1s
8 Greensmith/Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +2m39.4s
9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +5m13.4s
10 Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Volkswagen) +5m21.0s