The second round of the FIA World Rally Championship concluded today in Sweden. This is also the first edition of Rally Sweden based out of Umeå in Northern Sweden. The event moved north to ensure that the rally would consistently have snow conditions every year going forward.
This WRC round was the first opportunity for the championship’s full-time field to make an impact in the title fight as Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier, Rallye Monte Carlo’s winner and runner-up respectively, did not enter the Swedish event. Toyota’s 21-year-old Kalle Rovanperä made the most of the chance and won the rally by 22 seconds.
The rally had a hectic start as there were five different stage winners over the seven stages on the opening day of the three-day rally. After Friday, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville lead the field. Saturday would be a different story as Rovanperä took the lead and never looked back.
His Toyota teammate and nearest rival Elfyn Evans made a huge error on Saturday night’s final stage. At the final corner before the stage’s flying finish, Evans misjudged the corner and crashed over the snowbanks that line the route. He was unable to reverse back onto the stage so Evans continued on a parallel road and rejoined the stage route before stop control. He was given a ten-second penalty by the stewards. Evans started Sunday still second but was forced to retire after crashing on the day’s opening stage.
Hyundai’s Ott Tänak won the power stage at the rally’s end. Kalle Rovanperä finished the final stage second, but he won Rally Sweden. His father Harri Rovanperä’s lone WRC victory was also at Rally Sweden in 2001. Kalle was only four months old when his father won the event. Rovanperä now leads the World Rally Championship for Drivers by 14 points over Thierry Neuville.