Toyota Gazoo Racing had a dream start at Rally Sweden when the British talent Elfyn Evans led the rally after the day one, repeating his performance from Monte-Carlo.
This year’s edition of Rally Sweden has been hit with mild weather and the drivers have had to cope with inconceivable weather conditions over the weekend, but that has not stopped the Toyota drivers, who have three cars in the top-four after four stages of the rally.
“It has been a brilliant start to the rally for us. Elfyn is flying. It’s an incredible performance from him and he seems really comfortable in our car. We’ve seen an incredible performance also from Kalle. There is still quite a lot for him to learn about the car, and I’m sure there is even better speed to come from him during the rally.” Tommi Mäkinen, Team Principal, said.
“Seb is also in a strong position, so it’s been a very good day for us. It was difficult to say beforehand how it would go because of the conditions, but it’s been very good. The stages look to be in a nice winter condition and hopefully that will be the case tomorrow as well.”
Evans made a strong debut with the new car at Rallye Monte-Carlo and has continued his form in Sweden, heading over the finish line fastest during the opening-stage and later extended his lead by 8.5 seconds after the final stage of Torsby Sprint. Evans won two of the four stages that were run during the day.
“It’s been a pretty good day. The feeling in the car was immediately good this morning. It was quite difficult to know exactly how hard to push on the first stage: We had quite high grip, but it looked quite aggressive on the tyres. We tried to be quick but also relatively smooth and it seemed to work out pretty well.” Evans said.
“Now we need to try and do more of the same tomorrow. Nobody knows what the conditions will be like, so we have to adapt to whatever is put in front of us. I don’t think we’ll need to change much as everything worked very well today, but we’ll look over the data and try to find a few more seconds.”
The team’s youngest driver Kalle Rovanperä impressed everyone when he was fastest during the opening-shakedown, after all the stages today he went on to finish the day with a brilliant third place, but at the first turn at the Torsby Sprint stage he lost time and lost a place to Hyundai’s Ott Tänak after a spin.
“Today was nice. The conditions on the stages were better than everybody expected. There was more ice and snow and the tyres were lasting well. In the morning loop we were doing really well and we had good speed.” Rovanperä said.
“There were a few mistakes here and there, but we were learning more about the car all the time. The last one didn’t go so well as I stalled the car and we lost a lot of time. So that was not so nice, but hopefully we can gain back the time tomorrow. Let’s will see if there is snowfall tonight, as that would make the conditions quite different.”
Sébastien Ogier has not got the start he wanted after starting second on the stages, but he has to settle for a fourth place behind teammate Rovanperä. He wants to get home with the highest possible score after Sunday.
“The conditions were not that bad today, I think it was close to normal winter conditions. We could have good fun in some sections with good grip. It’s not been a bad day for us, but our team-mates have proven that we can go faster. It was not easy to start second on the road today, but that’s not the only reason why we have been slower. “ Ogier said.
“We need to be a little bit more committed in some places and maybe accept to take a bit more risk. The long-game is always important but we want to leave this event with as many points as possible. We’re going to try to make some little changes on the car for tomorrow and try to improve our pace if we can.”