The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team is ready to start the competitive action tomorrow on Rally Sweden, where the drivers are facing a different challenge this year with less snow and ice than usual covering the gravel stages.
Car 69 (Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen)
This morning, the drivers completed shakedown runs over the Skalla stage close to the service park in Torsby, with full gravel conditions. After completing multiple runs over the stage, the team’s drivers occupied the top three positions in the times, with Kalle Rovanperä fastest ahead of Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans. TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRC Challenge Program driver Takamoto Katsuta was sixth, and Jari-Matti Latvala was eighth in his privately-entered Toyota Yaris WRC.
Modifications to the event’s itinerary meant that the traditional visit to the trotting track in Karlstad this evening was run as an additional shakedown alongside the ceremonial start, with the first competitive stage to now take place tomorrow morning. Here there was another 1-2-3 for Toyota drivers, with Latvala quickest in front of Ogier – who had Prince Carl Philip of Sweden as his co-driver – and Rovanperä, with Evans fifth.
Kaj Lindström (Sporting Director)
“The conditions are going to be different to normal here, but the organisers have done all that they can to make the event run as smoothly as possible. It was a wise decision for the Karlstad stage tonight to be run as a second shakedown: the spectators still had the chance to see the rally cars driving, and we didn’t have to sacrifice any of the tyres we are allowed for the rally, which will be a big thing to manage during the weekend. For this morning’s shakedown, we had minus temperatures during the night and that made the surface better than expected. That meant we could do three or four runs with each car, and it was a good chance for the drivers to see how the tyres will behave on a long section of gravel. The conditions are going to be a bit of a question mark for everybody and I think it’s going to be a rally where you have to be smart and manage the tyres in some areas to have a good result.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“It’s not the winter wonderland here that we were hoping for, but the organisers have done their best to try to make the event happen. There will be some difficult sections waiting for us, but I hope that we can enjoy the weekend. When you have consistent conditions – fully gravel or fully snow – you can adapt easily, but when it’s changing every second corner, it’s quite difficult. We were able to learn something in shakedown this morning, because it was the first time we’ve run fully on gravel with the snow tyres. On the first run, I took it carefully and I saved the tyres better than the others, but I also lost too much time, so that’s a compromise we’ll have to find during the weekend. It’s an unknown situation and the one who adapts the best is going to win the rally.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Shakedown this morning was interesting. There was very high grip initially, but as the stage went on, the grip started to deteriorate as we lost the studs from the tyres, especially on the second run. The rally is going to be a bit unpredictable, so we have to try and adapt to the conditions as best as we can, and try to get the most out of the weekend. I think the biggest challenge is going to be trying to identify where the slippery places are going to be, especially towards the end of the stages where the grip from the studs will not be as high. There’s a lot of new pacenotes as well. But we’ve prepared as well as we can and hopefully we can have a good rally.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“In shakedown this morning it was quite difficult to drive in these conditions for the first time, but the times were quite good and it was interesting to see how the tyres and everything was changing. The most challenging part will be to manage the speed in these mixed conditions, because you need to take care with the tyres not to use the studs too much, but you also need to be flat-out to set a good time. So it will be difficult and there will be lots to learn, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The first stages of the rally – Hof-Finnskog and Finnskogen – will take place in neighbouring Norway, before the brand new Nyckelvattnet test on the Swedish side of the border. The day ends with the short Torsby Sprint stage finishing on the edge of the service park. The same four stages will be run again on Saturday.
Car 17 (Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia )
Car 33 (Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin)