The factory Toyota duo were entered into the snow rally to gather valuable miles driving their GR Yaris Rally1 cars ahead of the WRC’s to Rally Sweden from 15-18 February.
Evans took the victory with a 5m02.3s margin from 2022 Finnish rally champion Mikko Heikkila after trouble hit long-time leader Rovanpera, who competed in his first rally since electing to contest a part-time WRC programme this year.
Reigning WRC champions Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Halttunen, who will kick-off their WRC partial season in Sweden, led the rally through 11 of the 12 stages before a technical issue struck on the final stage.
The Finnish pair led Evans and co-driver Scott Martin by 24.6s at the end of Friday after Rovanpera won four of the five stages.
Rovnapera increased the lead to 54.5s after setting a string of blistering stage times before his rally ended on the final stage, handing Evans the victory.
“The whole day has been good and finally today we found the last tweaks in the car and the car felt fast all the time,” said Rovanpera.
“The morning loop went really well and the afternoon also. We were having good pace all the time, but unfortunately we had some technical issues a few kilometres from the end so sadly we could not finish on top, but we enjoyed it and got the most important thing which was the kilometres.
“We got the car and the set up more clear, so I think the testing was important and hopefully we can have a much better feeling before Sweden.”
Rovanpera was one stage away from winning
Photo by: Toyota Racing
Evans won the final stage of the rally by 42.6s from Heikkila, driving Toyota’s new GR Yaris Rally2 car, to clinch the rally victory from the Finn.
“I think it was really useful to come and do the rally, of course having mileage on snow and ice is a massive benefit because it is such a unique surface, so to take the mileage was important,” said Evans.
“It is not a secret that we expected to have some work ahead of us to get the car in the window we wanted, and for sure we made some steps, but I still have a few left to feel fully comfortable in fairness. Let’s see what we can find.”
Toyota’s WRC team principal Jari-Matti Latvala also competed in the rally, finishing 20th overall behind the wheel of a Toyota Celica ST185.
The Japanese brand’s WRC Challenge drivers Hikaru Kogure and Yuki Yamamoto were in action bringing their GR Yaris Rally2 entries home in ninth and 10th overall.
Elsewhere, former M-Sport’s WRC driver Pierre-Louis Loubet claimed victory in the Qatar International Rally after beating fellow Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 driver Mads Ostberg by 4.6s.