WRC Sweden: Rovanpera closes on victory, battle for second intensifies

Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera appears in the box seat to win Rally Sweden despite losing hybrid power in a dramatic start to the final day that saw rival Elfyn Evans retire.

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Rovanpera will head into the final stage of the World Rally Championship’s snow event equipped with a healthy 21.6s lead after nearest rival and teammate Evans crashed out on the day’s first test.

With Evans removed from the action, the battle for second intensified between Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi, with 3.7s separating the pair in Neuville’s favour.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta has climbed to fourth following Evans retirement ahead of M-Sport Ford’s Gus Greensmith and Hyundai’s Oliver Solberg, who are several minutes adrift of the lead group.

M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux retired from the event this morning after stopping on a road section due to a continuation of Saturday night's technical issue that afflicted his Puma.

Despite a lack of hybrid power Rovanpera was able to win Sunday’s first stage by 2.2s from Neuville to extend his rally lead after Evans, who was handed a 10s penalty overnight, was ruled out following a crash into a snowbank.

On the following test, which will host the final power stage, Rovanpera was unable to repeat the feat, clocking the fifth fastest time some 3.3s behind stage winner Ott Tanak (Hyundai).

However, all eyes turned to the battle for second between Neuville and Lappi. The former clipped a snowbank and dropped 1.7s to third-placed Lappi, leaving only 3.2s separating the pair.

"I saw a lot of parts on the road and a lot of snowbanks were destroyed,” said Neuville. “I struggled with the feeling in all of the braking points, so I lose a lot of time there.”

Neuville regrouped and responded on the penultimate stage of the rally, taking 0.5s out of Lappi to win the stage with Rovanpera third fastest, 3.1s back.

Rovanpera admitted he wasn’t pushing, joining the majority of crews that chose to cruise through the test to protect their tyres, ahead of the final power stage that concludes the rally this afternoon.

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