Rally Sweden 2024 – Friday’s Report

The first full day of this amazing rally and the stages, of which there were seven, with 107km’s of competitive kilometres ahead of the crews, what would this day give them in terms of challenge?

We had a short stage on Thursday evening to get things going and coming out of there, Kalle held the lead from Takamoto and Elfyn, giving Toyota a one-two-three at this point.

First up then was SS2 #42 Brattby 1 – 10.76 km, with a nod to Craig Breen who won this stage last year. Kalle was fastest from EP and Ott. The Estonian moved up a position and into third place overall, whilst Elfyn fell to fifth place. EP was also on the move gaining three positions and was into fourth place. In WRC2, Oliver Solberg held the lead from Sami and Georg.

Next up was SS3 Norrby 1 – 12.36 km and there was a full 360-degree spin for Elfyn in this one! Meanwhile, EP was fastest from Kalle and Takamoto. Of course, Thierry was opening the road and really struggling only able to hold seventh overall and now almost 26 seconds behind the leader. In WRC2, Oliver continued to take another stage win and led Sami and Georg was holding third.

The final stage of the morning loop, SS4 Floda 1 – 28.25 km and there was huge drama in this one as first Ott and then Kalle went off the stage. They were both out of the rally and would not continue. The result of this was that Takamoto, who was fastest in the stage from Elfyn and Adrien, moved into the lead, EP was now in second and Elfyn was third. In WRC2, the top three in the stage matched the top three overall with Oliver in the lead from Sami and Georg.

After the lunch break, SS5 #42 Brattby 2 – 10.76 km was next and the snow had continued falling and covered the stage in snow. Therefore, everyone was road sweeping. Fastest of the top class was EP, but even his time was beaten by five, yes, five rally2 cars, as Georg, Oliver and Mikko were the top three in the stage. Meanwhile Takamoto continued to lead, but with a reduced margin over EP of 5.3 seconds.

Into SS6 Norrby 2 – 12.36 km and with the snow still falling, EP was fastest from Georg in his Rally2 Toyota and Takamoto third. There was drama for Thierry, who said his car did not want to start, and he was late to the time control by four minutes. He was given a forty-second penalty, but crucially it meant that his closest title rival Elfyn would now open the road for the remaining stages, even though Thierry remained able to complete the road sections. With Elfyn now opening the road he lost third overall to Adrien, now 7.1 seconds behind the M-Sport driver.

The final proper stage of the day then, SS7 Floda 2 – 28.25 km and with Elfyn continuing to open the road, even though Thierry was still able to start the stage, the Welshman fell from fourth to sixth place. The conditions were really tricky out there with snow falling quite heavily on the stage. EP won the stage and took the lead of the rally with Takamoto falling to second place, whilst incredibly Oliver who was third in the stage, now moved up to third overall.

The final stage of the day then, SS8 Umeå Sprint 2 – 5.16 km and there was a return to a more normal top three with EP winning from Takamoto and Thierry. Elfyn was fifth fastest and gained one position into fifth overall.

Let’s take a look at the top positions and hear from the drivers.

Classification after Saturday

1 E. Lappi J. Ferm Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid 58:18.8
2 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid 3.2
3 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Škoda Fabia RS +1:20.7
4 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +1:26.3
5 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +1:50.0
6 G. Linnamäe J. Morgan Toyota GR Yaris +1:50.1
7 S. Pajari E. Mälkönen Škoda Fabia Evo +2:05.8
8 R. Korhonen A. Viinikka Toyota GR Yaris +2:08.6
9 M. Heikkilä K. Temonen Toyota GR Yaris +2:19.0
10 L. Joona J. Hussi Toyota GR Yaris +2:45.7
11 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid +2:46.0

Hyundai Motorsport

Esapekka Lappi

“This has been one of the toughest snow afternoons for me – ever! I have never driven in conditions like this, it’s pretty extreme even for a Finnish driver. So far, we have been fastest, so I am hoping for even more snow. This rally needs a completely different kind of driving style; you have to back off 35-40% just to brake easily and go front first on the corners. You can’t throw the car sideways at all, and the line you need to keep the car in at all times is very narrow. If you don’t, you’re just a passenger. We’re expecting better conditions tomorrow but once again it will be difficult to attack aggressively.”

2024 FIA World Rally Championship Round 2, Rally Sweden, 15-18 February 2024
Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid, Action during Day 1 of WRC Rally Sweden 2024
Photographer: Vincent Thuillier
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Thierry Neuville

“Conditions have been far trickier than what we were hoping for at the beginning of the rally. Our target was to get through, but it wasn’t an easy day for us. We were fighting a bit with the car, and visibility wasn’t great this morning before our technical issue this afternoon. We managed to get the car fired up but we were four minutes late to the stage. After that, we were managing the problem for the whole loop. I just tried to get through the day and we ended it on a good note in the final stage. Now we are looking forward to a new day tomorrow, hopefully trouble-free and more enjoyable.”

Ott Tänak

“Normally the first loop is quite consistent and drivable, but we could see how much everyone was struggling today. We were feeling quite OK in the car this morning; we were definitely fast, but one pace note was perhaps a bit too optimistic. I hit the snowbank far too hard, and we spun, and that caused damage to the cooling package. We fixed it within the stage so we could drive out, and we managed to get the car back to service. It should be an easy repair and we expect to be back tomorrow.”


Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Takamoto Katsuta

“It’s been really tough today with the conditions. Even on the first pass this morning there was a lot of snow and it just got more and more during the day. This morning I just tried to find a rhythm where we felt comfortable. We avoided big risks and this paid off pretty well. Then this afternoon was very difficult as we expected, and it was hard to stay on the road sometimes. I was trying to follow the lines but sometimes there was no line at all. I had to push to not lose too much time with Esapekka being two cars behind us: in the end we couldn’t quite keep the position but we’re still pretty close to the lead with two days to go. Let’s keep pushing.”

Elfyn Evans

“The conditions have been very, very difficult today. Even this morning, the visibility was low on the first stage and then after that there was a lot of loose snow and quite low grip. We had a high-speed spin in the second stage this morning and were quite lucky to get away with that as we did. It was looking a bit better for us at the end of the morning but then the weather took a turn for the worse this afternoon. The sheer volume of snow didn’t make it easy, especially once we were opening the road on the last three stages, because when conditions are this extreme it makes a big difference. Of course, we hope for better conditions tomorrow.”

Kalle Rovanperä

“It is a big pity that our day ended so early. We were having a good start to the rally and a good chance to fight for the win. The conditions were tricky with the heavy snowfall and the grip levels were changing quite a lot. We just went a bit wide in a right-hand corner. I think some drivers in front had already touched the bank so there was a big hole in it which just kicked us into a spin. We damaged the radiator and also picked up a puncture in the same moment, and although we could make some repairs we unfortunately could not continue today. I’m sorry for the team, but there are a lot of points available on Sunday and we will try to bring them home.”


Oliver Solberg

“What a day! It’s been a little bit crazy with the conditions sometimes. When the snow was coming really hard, the visibility was bad – it was like driving at night. You just couldn’t see, so you had to back off a little bit. Of course, with so much snow, the grip was not so high in many places.

We just kept pushing. In some places I think I might have saved my tyres a little bit too much, but I am very happy at the end of the day. Of course, I understand the [Rally1] cars at the front are having the conditions worse and cleaning more of the snow away – but, still, I will take this place overall! It’s fantastic and so nice to be giving my home fans something to cheer for.

“It looks like the conditions can be a bit more straightforward tomorrow.”


The second full day of competition will see the crews tackle 126km’s over seven more stages. What will the day bring? We shall see!

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