Rovanpera downplays WRC Rally Sweden victory hopes

The reigning world champion faced the most challenging of the road conditions thanks to his road order, which left him unable to stay in touch with leader Hyundai’s Craig Breen.

Rovanpera started the day leading the rally by 1.6s from M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tanak after winning Thursday night’s Umea Sprint super special.

However, a combination of cleaning the roads of snow and being first to tackle rutted second passes of stages proved a tough ask to stay with the lead group.

Rovanpera was able to claim two stage wins but ended the day in fifth, 31.1s behind Breen.

While the Finn will receive a better road position on Saturday, with 10 stages of the rally remaining, Rovanpera feels the gap has stretched too far.

“I think it [the gap] is too big,” said Rovanpera. “The gaps are not so big during the stages and with really fast stages tomorrow I think it will be difficult to do much. We do have some smaller gaps to some guys around us so we need to fight and stay in the fight.

“Every time we had a chance with the road condition we pushed hard and we were on the top times.

“Clearly when it was difficult we made it through without any mistakes but I was still losing too much time, I couldn’t do much more.”

Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Kalle Rovanperä, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Toyota boss Jari-Matti Latvala agrees that it will be difficult for Rovanpera to win, but isn’t completely ruling out the prospect, admitting that smart tyre management could be key for a comeback.

“It was not the best day but not a disaster either,” Latvala told “I said in Monte Carlo that when you have a successful start that things can be different in Sweden and things are now different.

“Kalle did what he could and the conditions were different to last year and more difficult. I think that is the maximum he could do today.

“It is difficult to fight for the victory but I think we have to try and target the podium and with a little bit of luck you never know things can change.

“Here the difference can be made in the second pass of the stages and if some drivers are running out of tyres, and you have good tyres, you can extract the pace.

“It is very difficult but if you have a little bit of luck then you might win, but with normal driving I don’t think so.”

Toyota’s best-placed driver was Elfyn Evans in fourth, although the Welshman ended Friday 26.5s adrift after struggling for confidence during the morning stages.

It is unclear if the team’s third entry driven by Takamoto Katsuta will rejoin the rally after retiring from Friday’s action.

Katsuta rolled in Stage 5 while occupying fifth position and the subsequent radiator damage forced him to end the day early.

The team is due to assess the car’s engine before confirming if it is possible for the Japanese driver to participate on Saturday.

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