Rovanpera in charge at Rally Sweden, team-mate Evans is second

Kalle Rovanpera leads the second round of the World Rally Championship at the overnight halt after successfully capitalising on his favourable road position during the penultimate day of Rally Sweden.
Rovanpera in charge at Rally Sweden, team-mate Evans is second

Rovanpera carries the tiniest of buffers going into the third and final leg tomorrow, with four tests – including the points paying Power Stage – all that stand between him and a third WRC career win.

In stark contrast to yesterday when five different drivers took turns at heading up the time sheets across the seven stages, Rovanpera held firm after deposing Thierry Neuville on Saturday’s opener. That was despite the Finn repeatedly making “stupid mistakes” on SS11 – the 6.98-miles of ‘Umea’ - and not being aggressive enough with his driving style.

Chasing Rovanpera down hard is Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans – a winner of the WRC’s only winter event from 2020. He, too, was guilty of errors across the day, with these costing “half-a-second here, a second there”.

The biggest error of all, however, happened at the end of the deciding stage when the Welshman lost control of his Yaris and ploughed through a snow bank. Luckily for him, it came moments after he broke the timing beam.

“I was put off a little by the last junction,” said a clearly unimpressed Evans, who sits 8.3 seconds off top spot, “and the snow bank was so soft I went through straight away.”

Neuville – who currently has the edge over the third Toyota of fourth-placed Esapekka Lappi – lost ground to the top two on the final stage before lunchtime service when he misjudged his braking point and overshot the corner. “We want to stay in the game, the fight,” said the Belgian. “For us, that is the priority.”

A consistent and cool-headed approach by Toyota's Takamoto Katstuta continues to pay dividends after the Japanese star inherited fifth from Oliver Solberg on the last stage of the day.

Solberg nursed his I20 N Rally1 car through the 'Umea' spectator special, dropping 90 seconds and two places in the process. "I don't know, nothing," he said when asked what the problem was. "We had no throttle or something. It doesn't go forward." That late drama demoted him to seventh.

Like Katsuta, M-Sport Ford's Gus Greensmith benefited from Solberg's woes and climbed to sixth after an indifferent day two.

Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) and Ole Christian Veiby (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5) are the leading WRC2 runners in eighth and ninth.

Craig Breen’s Rally Sweden experience went from bad to worse on Saturday’s penultimate stage after his Puma Rally1 car came crawling to a halt with suspected engine trouble.

The Irishman did manage to engage EV mode, however, and move the car to a safe location. He is expected to rejoin the action tomorrow when maximum Power Stage points will be his objective.

It's an early start for crews on Sunday, with the first stage getting underway at 6am UK time.

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