Rovanperä leads into final day of Rally Sweden

The Toyota driver ended Saturday with a lead-extending stage victory in the dark


Kalle Rovanperä has extended his Rally Sweden lead once more on a dramatic stage as Elfyn Evans went off into a snowbank over the finish line, Oliver Solberg started several minutes late and Adrien Fourmaux became the second M-Sport driver to suffer a mechanical problem in as many stages.

Evans was on a big push to try and reduce his 5.7-second deficit to his rally-leading Toyota team-mate Rovanperä on Saturday’s final test and it was evident he was pushing as he approached the final junction of the stage with great vigor and slid his GR Yaris Rally1 into a softbank.

However the road-side snow wasn’t forgiving and swallowed Evans, so Evans mashed his foot to the floor and powered through the snow, taking out the finish boards to set what was, at that point, the fastest time.

Rovanperä beat him by 2.6s to up his lead to 8.3s, but Evans could breathe a sigh of relief that he managed to cross the line with his mistake. He eventually got out of the snow but took out the lights illuminating the end of the stage.


“[We] just [went] a little bit off at the last junction but the bank was so soft we went through straightaway,” Evans commented.

Things were far more straightforward for Rovanperä though who looks to be in control of the rally. Asked what percent he was driving at, he said: “I think it should always be 100%.

“On the middle one I think it was 105 or 110, happy to be here, nice time. Tomorrow is still a big fight but the stages look nice so we just try to enjoy it.”

This year’s Rally Sweden has been an epic contest for supremacy involving up to six drivers at one point, but that sextet became a quarter for Saturday and now looks to be down to just a duo.

Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who led the rally overnight, admitted he cannot live with Rovanperä’s speed and is now over 20s back in third. But not unhappy by any means.


“Nobody could have expected us to fight for a podium place after what happened in Monte Carlo,” he said. “It’s important to get it done tomorrow.”

He has 4.2s in hand over Esapekka Lappi who has also drifted out of the lead battle.

But far worse befell two of the WRC’s youngest drivers.

Solberg had been running in fifth ahead of Takamoto Katsuta, and before the stage Solberg and co-driver Elliott Edmondson were pictured working on their Hyundai. They started SS15 a substantial 16 minutes late, incurring 2m40s in time penalties.

They then got through the stage and lost a further 1m30s, but due to dramas elsewhere he managed to cling onto seventh, falling behind Katsuta and Gus Greensmith with what appeared to be a throttle issue.

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Solberg said when asked what the problem was. “Something with the throttle or something, I don’t know honestly.”

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Fourmaux was a quiet seventh overall on his first snow rally in a top-line car, adopting a cautious approach in a bid to rebuild his confidence after a string of costly crashes on recent WRC rounds.

But his patience was tested on Saturday’s final stage when his Ford Puma Rally1 began to slow and bog down at low revs, sounding rather sick and forcing him to stop.

Katsuta sped past on the stage but Fourmaux did manage to nurse his unwell car to the end of the stage, losing over four minutes in the process.

His M-Sport team-mate Craig Breen had pulled up on the previous stage but didn’t make it out.

“I think something is wrong with the engine, for sure it’s a lot of frustration but these things happen,” said Fourmaux.

“It could’ve happened in the last kilometer but it’s never like that, but it’s part of the game.”


The time loss has dropped Fourmaux out of the points, but the top 10 may still be feasible with a 1m10.3s deficit to 10th placed Nikolay Gryazin’s less capable Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo.

The top three in WRC2 now lives in the overall top 10 due to the dramtic end to Saturday. And despite looking like he didn’t have the pace to match compatriot Ole Christian Veiby on Friday, Andreas Mikkelsen has been in charge on Saturday to lead his fellow Norwegian by 10.9s.

Gryazin is third having pulled clear of Jari Huttunen and Georg Linnamäe who were glued to him after the first day.

Jon Armstrong has taken the lead of Junior WRC from Lauri Joona on the final stage of the Saturday, carrying a 3.5s advantage into Sunday’s four stages.

William Creighton rounds out the podium but is over a minute further back.

SS15 times

1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 6m12.4s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +2.6s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +3.2s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +5.0s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +6.3s
6 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +8.7s
7 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +12.0s
8 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda) +18.1s
9 Jari Huttunen/Mikko Lukka (M-Sport Ford) +19.5s
10 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +20.1s

Leading positions after SS15

1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 1h45m26.7s
2 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +8.3s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +21.7s
4 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +25.9s
5 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +1m44.8s
6 Greensmith/Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +2m48.1s
7 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +5m19.9s
8 Mikkelsen/Eriksen (Škoda) +5m33.5s
9 Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Volkswagen) +5m44.4s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +6m04.1s