Kalle Rovanperä has extended his lead of the second round of the World Rally Championship, Rally Sweden, as Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans robbed Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville of second place after SS10.
Due to the cancelation of SS9 because of reindeer movement, there was a sizeable gap between the previous test and Långed – a stage that featured several high-speed straights including right at the finish.
But that did little to temper the ferocious battle to win this year’s event. Just 3.2 seconds split the entire top four after the first stage of Saturday, but SS10 belonged to one driver: Rovanperä.
Although he only won the stage by 0.1 seconds over Ott Tänak, he was 2.6s quicker than any of his close rivals to establish a four-second rally lead over Evans, who beat Neuville by 0.8s to steal second place.
However, Evans’ advantage over Neuville – who led the rally overnight – is slight at just 0.1s.
Esapekka Lappi is by no means out of it but has fallen to 8.8s adrift of the lead – the same deficit that he came into the day with – and was “surprised” this his time “was that slow”.
Lappi’s Toyota was 5.6s slower than Rovanperä’s and 2.2s shy of what Neuville could manage.
Oliver Solberg was cut adrift from the pulsating lead scrap and instead has turned his focus to just keeping hold of his fifth spot, struggling to find the rhythm in his Hyundai on SS10.
Solberg’s time was poor compared to what he’s managed to produce throughout Rally Sweden so far; faster only than Gus Greensmith.
In the battle between M-Sport drivers for seventh, Adrien Fourmaux hit back at Greensmith to extend his overall advantage back into double figures. But both Ford Puma Rally1s are over 30s back from Toyota Next Generation driver Takamoto Katsuta who felt he hesitated in the technical parts of the stage.
There was a lead change in WRC2 as Ole Christian Veiby overhauled reigning champion Andreas Mikkelsen for what is also ninth place overall in the rally.
Veiby had led the class for most of Friday before a stall at a junction on the day’s final stage dumped him behind his Norwegian compatriot. But by going 5.5s faster than his rival on SS10, Veiby now holds a 0.8s class lead.
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 8m51.6s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +0.1s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +2.6s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +3.4s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +5.6s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +7.2s
7 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +8.9s
8 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +11.3s
9 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +12.0s
10 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +14.5s
Leading positions after SS10
1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 1h17m50.0s
2 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +4.0s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +4.1s
4 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +8.8s
5 Solberg/Edmondson (Hyundai) +44.3s
6 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +1m22.4s
7 Fourmaux/Coria (M-Sport Ford) +1m58.8s
8 Greensmith/Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +2m09.7s
9 Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Volkswagen) +4m00.2s
10 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +4m01.0s