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Sweden 2024 Rally Report

Updated: Feb 16

WRC Car Parks don't get better than this

Optimal conditions awaited the class of 2024 as the crews hit shakedown to discover them for the first time. Neuville/Wydaeghe discovered their intercom was broken moments before and had to resort to using the headphones through the stage. Most crews got through ok, with returning Esapekka Lappi setting fastest time through. Further down the order Bruno Bulacia crashed his Fiesta Rally3 causing severe damage to the drivers front corner, a monumental effort need from his team to get him ready for the first stage this afternoon, so long as it passes FIA inspection.

The opening stage of the rally was a Super special based near the service park at Umea, which the crews would be returning again. The stages looked great in the the strong lights of the cars. As expected Rovenpera claimed the fastest time by 1.4s over second place man Taka Katsuta, showing he'd lost nothing over his extended winter break. Evans came in 3rd a further 2s behind.

In WRC2, we don't have the pleasure of watching Pepe Lopez on this event, although he does have a program for the year. Rossel too is absent from the event. It fell to Nikolay Gryazin to lead the field away and set a decent benchmark of 3:30.5, although he has not nominated this event for points. Last years' winner and the favourite, Oliver Solberg started his campaign in full send style, much as has he's become known for. At 2:52.3, he took the early lead going into Friday and the first full full day of competition.

Day 2

Neuville started the first full day will a plan, presumably to keep the disadvantage of running first on the road to a minimum. #42 Brattby offered up a good base of ice with loose snow on top, added to that was a thin blanket of fog in places. Still Neuville managed to post a time of 6:23.9, good enough for 7th on the stage. His team mate Ott Tanak put in a great effort to produce a 2nd place stage time despite his own road position. It was no surprise that the top spot was again claimed by Rovenpera. The other Toyotas did well on the opener too with even Katsuta continuing his great pace on a surface he has become quite used to.

Fourmaux had a great day, getting up to 4th OA
Adrien Fourmaux

SS3 Norrby offered 12.3km of some very slippy conditions that caught out Elfyn Evans and sent him into a full 360 spin. He was very lucky not to be sucked into the snow bank, instead dropping a couple of gears and carrying on and by the end dropped just shy of 6s. Neuville got to the end ok but complained of no visibility due to his wipers. Tanak by comparison looked like he was on a different stage. Full of confidence he put in a very strong time. By now it was clear that Katsuta had come into 24 having stepped up his game. He brought his Yaris home 0.1s faster than Tanak, with the Fords and, yes, Rovanpera still to come. By this time, the snow had begun to fall once again, changing the grip levels in the stage but Rovanpera was still 0.8s quicker. The last of the contenders blasted through with the fastest drive giving EP the stage win by 1.2s

Taka Katsuta pushed hard to lead the event
Takamoto Katsuta

Evans had dropped 18s by the last stage of the morning and needed a good run to keep in touch with the leading pack. Neuville made it through cleanly in a slither over 13 minutes to complete the loop. Tanak was going quickly until a slight mistake caused the back end to let go and throw the car into the snow bank. They continued on for a short time until a dash alarm caused them to stop and check the damage, which unfortunately was to the cooling pack. They tried to get to the finish on EV only but stopped again after a close call when Fourmaux had a near miss as he past the ailing crew.

Rovanpera off the road on Day 1
Rovanpera off the road on Day 1

Katsuta made it through 7 tenths quickest. Munster on his conservative run still picked up a puncture on the stage, no doubt due to the amount of debris from the earlier offs. From the onboards it seemed like his screen began to steam up too, all of which added up to a 4:03 minutes loss. Stage 4 had not finished yet. The rally favourite, Kalle Rovanpera had an off on the stage also causing major damage and leaving the stage strewn with bodywork for Lappi to discover at speed. He had managed to clear the car from the stage though. Having cleared Rovanpera's damage and Tanaks actual car in the stage, EP continued to push picking up cosmetic damage to his car and losing 10.5s. Taka Katsuta now leads the rally, with EP in second and Evans in third.

Solberg put in good times to mix it in the top 10
Solberg put in good times to mix it in the top 10

Conditions worsened for the afternoon loop with deep snow, causing the cars to float across the surface and not able to bite into the ice further down. It was a tough drive for Neuville but he survived to make it through a minute slower than the morning run. Evans was quicker through 16.3 over Neuville with the stage getting quicker. Fourmaux was next through, quicker still. The rally leader enjoyed a slightly cleaner line but still used the snow banks at times. He made it through faster still , 15.7s over Fourmaux. With a run of 6.1s Lappi came through to close the gap to Taka to 5.3s. But it was the Rally2 crews that shone on this stage with the improving conditions.

Stage 6 was supposed to start with Neuville heading in first but he appeared to have had an engine issue leaving Elfyn to jump ahead on the road. As Neuville headed into the stage and onto the faster sections of the stage, one of the bonnet catches failed lifting the bonnet up. In fact the whole stage was messy and he was lucky to get through to the end. With drama unfolding it was for Evans to make the best of it. Further down Taka continued an impressive and confident drive as did Adrien Fourmaux in the Puma, road positions helping massively. Again EP had a clean run 5s quicker than Taka closing the gap to 3 tenths going into the longest stage.

Neuville had fuel issues along with the bonnet lifting
Neuville had fuel issues along with the bonnet lifting

Lights pods ablaze and into the 30km of SS7 re-levelled thanks to the snowfall. Very quickly Evans found the going tough and nearly parked it in a snow bank before the 6k mark. With the bonnet returned to its normal position and the fuelling issue seemingly sorted, Neuville followed Evans into the stage. Without much of a line to follow he was still remarkably committed and picked up a 20s advantage over Evans, the difference between first and second on the road. Katsuta put in a clean drive without taking too many risks, 21.9 faster. Fourmaux had managed to stick the MSport Puma on the podium by the end of the day but all eyes were on Lappi to see who would take the overnight lead. With 0.3 the difference his run was good and the time better, 2.1s quicker with just the super special to go.

Esapekka Lappi now leads at the end of day 1
Esapekka Lappi now leads at the end of day 1

Both Solberg and Pajari mixed it with the Rally1 boys setting times good enough for 3rd and 4th respectively. Lappi now leads by 1.8s over Katsuta, Solberg in 3rd ahead of Fourmaux in 4th. Evans lies in 6th and Neuville in 9th after a very difficult day in the forests.

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