Kalle Rovanperä did exactly as his father Harri did 21 years ago. The Finn repeated his father's feat and won Rally Sweden 2022 ahead of Thierry Neuville and Esa-Pekka Lappi.
Andreas Mikkelsen won the WRC2 and Jon Armstrong won the JWRC.
Kalle Rovanperä was only four months old when his father triumphed at the WRC’s only pure winter fixture in 2001 in a Peugeot 206 World Rally Car. Now it was the Kalles turn.
“It was nice to win; it was a nice rally with many excellent distances where it sometimes went almost too fast. I had a good feeling all weekend and made a few mistakes. But on the whole, it was an incredible winter rally with fantastic conditions and plenty of snow. So the move to Umeå was just in time”, said the winner.
Thierry Neuville, who opened the best on Friday and had the lead before Saturday with 4.3 seconds before Rovanperä, lost 21.7 seconds. But the Hyundai driver still summed up the weekend’s effort as more than approved, especially since the Monte-Carlo start was not particularly successful for the team when Oliver Solberg was forced to break due to exhaust problems in the passenger compartment.
“I was a little surprised that we led after the first day, especially when we were a little unsure after the performance in Monte Carlo. I did the job, had a good feeling on Friday, and the car was perfect. But the remaining two days, I did not get that top feeling”, said the Belgian.
The 21-year-old Rovanperä won six stages during the weekend and mastered the winter surface best of all. Rovanperäs won with 22 seconds ahead of Neuville, and the Toyota driver got paid more and more the longer the race lasted. Before the closing day four final stages, Rovanperä was chased by teammate Elfyn Evans.
But the Welsh driver, who was eight seconds behind on Saturday, received a time penalty after missing the finish line on Umeå SS 15, and on Sunday, he drove up the snowbank and was forced to break.
It opened up for Rovanperä, who did not take any risks and guarded the last three stages into the finish. He thus became the eleventh Finnish driver to win the Swedish rally.
Toyota Gzoo Racing also won the brand world championship after taking home three of the first four places where Rovanperä’s Finnish compatriot Esa-Pekka Lappi answered for the trust from the Toyota team by taking a podium place as third.
The 32-year-old from Pieksämäki dreamed of the podium, and the dreams came true.-Lappi, who made a comeback in the driver’s seat after a year of absence, was pleased.
“It is fantastic to be able to come back in this way and be there directly from the first leg and maintain it throughout the weekend”, said Lappi.
In WRC2, it was all about Norway. Andreas Mikkelsen and Ole-Christian Veiby dueled for the victory until the 18th special stage when Veiby drove into a snowdrift and lost a full 17 seconds, which meant that Mikkelsen got an impregnable grip.
The reigning WRC2 champion finished with a solid control on the Power Stage and won the class by 23.1 seconds.
– It has been a cruel hero and it has been one of the best fights in my career. Ole Christian has done a great rally and I know how hard he has worked over the past year. I am so happy for him that he was able to come here and deliver such a good result, says Mikkelsen who also won the initial WRC2 competition in Monte Carlo.
In the junior class JWRC it was, if possible, an even tougher feud between the British Jon Armstrong and the Finn Lauri Joona. They exchanged lead with each other throughout the weekend and it was only on the last special stage that Armstrong could decide. The margin of victory was only 2.7 seconds ahead of Joona.
– I’m a little surprised. I did not even think I would start this season, everything worked out very late. But I got a good feeling at Shakedown and on Friday we made more progress. The fight against Joona was tough and I never think I have been in such an even rally before, says Armstrong.