Rally Sweden – Day One Report

Rally Sweden – Day One Report

Umeå, Sweden February 16, 2024
Hyundai Motorsport’s Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm have made the perfect start to their 2024 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) campaign at Rally Sweden, round two of the season, with the Finns leading the charge after eight stages.
The Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team crew ploughed ahead of the field on the penultimate and longest stage of the rally to build an advantage of 3.2 seconds heading into Saturday.
Rally Sweden began with the first run of Umeå Sprint (SS1/8, 5.16km) on Thursday evening followed by six new stages on Friday.
#42 Brattby, renamed in honour of Craig Breen, opened both loops; Thierry Neuville admitted after the first run that “only the real Mayor of Brattby would have loved the stage – I didn’t!”
Crews then tackled Norrby (SS3/6, 12.36km) and Floda (SS4/7, 28.25km) before a second attempt of Umeå Sprint closed the day.
Continuous snow blanketed the stages between the morning and afternoon loop, filling in any ruts and lines from the first pass to wipe the slate clean for the repeat attempt.
Lappi and Ferm’s late running order allowed them to experience the best of the cleaning effect on the stages, however the conditions remained tricky and treacherous.
The Finns claimed four stage wins in a triumphant return to the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid; two on both runs of Norrby, one on the second Floda test – which also powered them into first place – as well as the final stage, Umeå Sprint.
Contrastingly, their team-mates Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe experienced the worst of the foggy and snowy conditions as first on the road, and they closed the morning loop in fifth place.
The Belgians then had a small scare ahead of SS6 Norrby 2 as they struggled to get their car to start, but after a small delay they were able to get their Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid running again.
The #11 crew is focused on moving up through the order with ten stages left to contest.
Estonians Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja retired from the day on SS4 Floda 1 after making heavy contact with a snowbank, which damaged the cooling package on their car.
The crew had been running in third after a solid start to the day and now turn their attentions to a recovery drive on their return to the rally on Saturday.

Crew Notes: Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (#4 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
Finnish crew return with same Swedish pace demonstrated in 2023
Four stage wins claimed with fastest times on SS3, SS6, SS7 and SS8
Lappi said: “This has been one of the toughest snow afternoons for me – ever! I have never driven in conditions like this, it’s pretty extreme even for a Finnish driver. So far, we have been fastest, so I am hoping for even more snow. This rally needs a completely different kind of driving style; you have to back off 35-40% just to brake easily and go front first on the corners. You can’t throw the car sideways at all, and the line you need to keep the car in at all times is very narrow. If you don’t, you’re just a passenger. We’re expecting better conditions tomorrow but once again it will be difficult to attack aggressively.”

Crew Notes: Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (#11 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
First on the road prevents Belgians from showing true potential on opening day
Best finish of third on final sprint stage of the day
Neuville said: “Conditions have been far trickier than what we were hoping for at the beginning of the rally. Our target was to get through, but it wasn’t an easy day for us. We were fighting a bit with the car, and visibility wasn’t great this morning before our technical issue this afternoon. We managed to get the car fired up but we were four minutes late to the stage. After that, we were managing the problem for the whole loop. I just tried to get through the day and we ended it on a good note in the final stage. Now we are looking forward to a new day tomorrow, hopefully trouble-free and more enjoyable.”

Crew Notes: Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (#8 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid)
Estonians running in a provisional podium place before retirement
Crew due to return on Saturday after successful repairs
Tänak said: “Normally the first loop is quite consistent and drivable, but we could see how much everyone was struggling today. We were feeling quite OK in the car this morning; we were definitely fast but one pace note was perhaps a bit too optimistic. I hit the snowbank far too hard and we spun, and that caused damage to the cooling package. We fixed it within the stage so we could drive out, and we managed to get the car back to service. It should be an easy repair and we expect to be back tomorrow.”

Hyundai Motorsport President and Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “It is fair to say that today was an amazing day of rallying in very adverse conditions, with all crews and cars trying to make the best out of the tricky situation – providing the absolutely fantastic imagery typical of this rally. We were expecting the snowstorm to be a challenge, and it was. It took out a few cars in the morning stages and provided a very difficult challenge for Thierry opening the road, which practically de facto disqualified him from any strong result this weekend. Ott was punished by going into the snowbank, which led to a failure on his cooling system his retirement from today. He will be back in action tomorrow. EP clearly benefitted from a good road position which he leveraged well; he drove beautifully and smartly, allowing him to move into the lead this evening. Let’s see what he can do tomorrow from this position. As always, the day was long, but the weekend will be even longer.”

Saturday at a Glance
Seven stages totalling 125.96km will feature on Saturday’s itinerary: Vännäs (SS9/12, 15.65km), Sarsjöliden (SS10/13, 14.23km) and Bygdsiljum (SS11/14, 28.06km) are each contested twice.
An evening attempt of Umeå offers crews a chance to recce the event’s Power Stage before its repeat on Sunday.

Classification after Day 1

1 E. Lappi J. Ferm Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid 58:18.8
2 T. Katsuta A. Johnston Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid 3.2
3 O. Solberg E. Edmondson Škoda Fabia RS +1:20.7
4 A. Fourmaux A. Coria Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid +1:26.3
5 E. Evans S. Martin Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid +1:50.0
6 G. Linnamäe J. Morgan Toyota GR Yaris +1:50.1
7 S. Pajari E. Mälkönen Škoda Fabia Evo +2:05.8
8 R. Korhonen A. Viinikka Toyota GR Yaris +2:08.6
9 M. Heikkilä K. Temonen Toyota GR Yaris +2:19.0
10 L. Joona J. Hussi Toyota GR Yaris +2:45.7
11 T. Neuville M. Wydaeghe Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid +2:46.0

Hyundai Motorsport



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