Elfyn Evans has scored his first victory with the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team following a dominant performance at Rally Sweden in just his second event behind the wheel of the Toyota Yaris WRC.
Joining him on the podium was 19-year-old rookie sensation Kalle Rovanperä, who came out on top in a thrilling battle with his world champion team-mate Sébastien Ogier for third place with a stunning run through the rally-ending Power Stage.
Together, the trio continued the team’s outstanding start to the season with its all-new driver line-up: Toyota has taken the lead of the manufacturers’ championship, while Evans jointly leads the drivers’ championship for the first time in his career.
Evans led the event from start to finish to record his second career FIA World Rally Championship victory, after winning on home soil on Wales Rally GB in 2017. It is a first ever WRC win for co-driver Scott Martin after the pair joined forces last season, and together they are the first British competitors to ever win Rally Sweden, a founding round of the WRC in 1973.
The third Rally Sweden triumph in four years for the Toyota Yaris WRC came in very different conditions to the previous two. Unseasonal weather in the build up to the event – which is usually run entirely on ice and snow – meant that organisers developed a reduced itinerary to ensure the rally could go ahead. Freezing temperatures helped keep the stages in a good condition on Friday and Saturday, before rain on Sunday created a demanding final stage.
Evans had built up a cushion of 17.2 seconds into the final day having won five of the previous eight stages and this allowed him to take a relatively cautious approach through the tricky deciding test and still secure the win by 12.7s.
Already impressive on his debut at rallying’s top level on Rallye Monte-Carlo, Rovanperä reached another level on Rally Sweden, climbing as high as second overall at one point on Friday. He and Ogier traded third place several times on Saturday, and it was Ogier who came into the final day with an advantage of half a second.
In the tricky conditions of the 21.19-kilometre Likenäs stage, Rovanperä was 3.7 seconds faster than anybody else, taking his first ever WRC stage win and the maximum five bonus points on offer in the Power Stage. He is the youngest ever podium finisher on a WRC round, more than two years younger than the previous record holder. Ogier still achieved the third fastest time as well as fourth overall, collecting a strong points haul towards the championship, where he is in third place, five points behind Evans.