Rovanperä stuns by setting shakedown pace

Commanding performance by Toyota's teenage star on Sweden warm-up

Kalle Rovanperä Toyota Rally Sweden 2020

Kalle Rovanperä stunned the World Rally Championship with his maiden shakedown stage win at Rally Sweden on Thursday.

He headed a Toyota 1-2-3 on the 4.48-mile stage, with Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans following him home

Takamoto Katsuta made it four Yaris WRCs in the top six, with the Toyotas split by Hyundai duo Craig Breen and Ott Tanak.

But it was Rovanperä’s time that was the talk of the service park, with a pace 3.5s faster than anybody else.

His time came with new tyres on a fourth start at the stage – only he and Evans completed that many runs of the Skalla test.

Asked about that time, Rovanperä told DirtFish: “I just went with the feeling in the car, it was coming nicer and nicer and I was enjoying myself!

“But this is shakedown and it’s quite easy to remember the stage.

“But also, the road is getting faster and there’s more grip than early this morning.”

Temperatures rose through the morning, softening a road hardened by temperatures falling as low as minus eight overnight.

The mix of hard ice and gravel had ripped studs from the tyres on the first and second runs, but the 19-year-old’s new tyres found more grip on his final run.

Breen was delighted to be quickest of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC runners, but his focus was past shakedown and firmly on the event.

“I’m so happy to be back in the car again,” Breen told DirtFish. “I’ve missed this! The balance was great.

“We made some changes for the second run and this set-up gave much more confidence, it was linked to the roll bars and the balance.

“We had a bit more snow and ice on the test and we have no real reference for these conditions.

“Let’s see what tomorrow brings and what the conditions are like. It all feels good now, but we’re really going into the unknown tomorrow.”

Teemu Suninen was fastest of the M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRCs, despite a big moment when he was caught out in some icy ruts.

Championship leader Thierry Neuville was ninth quickest, while Jari Huttunen was fastest of the Rally2 (R5) cars, with his Hyundai i20 R5 0.9s ahead of Mads Østberg’s Citroën.

Words:David Evans

Photography:André Lavadinho