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Gravel Notes Podcast: WRC Sweden preview

The World Rally Championship heads north to the snow and ice of Sweden for the second round of 2024, which will mark the return of world champion Kalle Rovanpera.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Toyota Racing

Two-time and reigning world champion Rovanpera is expected to be among the favourites to add to his 2022 Sweden triumph in what will be the first round of a partial 2024 WRC campaign for the Finn.

After missing out on a podium last year, Toyota will arrive in Sweden determined to find form on the high-speed snow stages and offer a response to Hyundai after Thierry Neuville scored maximum points from the WRC’s new scoring format, in last month’s Monte Carlo season opener.

To assist in its preparations for Sweden, Toyota tackled Arctic Rally Finland earlier this month, entering GR Yaris cars for Rovanpera and title contender Elfyn Evans in addition to its pre-event test days. Evans took the rally victory after Rovanpera suffered a technical fault while holding a healthy lead.

Takamoto Katsuta will pilot the third factory Toyota in an event where the Japanese has shown flashes of pace, while a fourth privately run GR Yaris will be driven by Lorenzo Bertelli.

Hyundai has also been busily preparing for Sweden at its Finland test base. The Korean marque boasts last year’s Sweden winner Ott Tanak in its ranks for this year’s event alongside championship leader Neuville, while Esapekka Lappi will make his first appearance of 2024, driving the third i20 N.

M-Sport ventures to Sweden following a strong showing in Monte Carlo thanks to impressive performances from its new young gun line-up of Adrien Fourmaux and Gregoire Munster, which will complete a nine car Rally1 field. The team will be led by Malcolm Wilson this weekend with team principal Richard Millener absent on paternity leave.

Sweden will also mark the start of the 2024 Junior WRC that has attracted a record 19-car field, including the four FIA Rally Star graduates, Max Smart/Cameron Fair, Taylor Gill/Daniel Brkic, Romet Jurgenson/Oja Siim and Jose Caparo/Esther Gutierrez.

This week Autosport WRC reporter Tom Howard is joined by rally journalist Luke Barry to discuss all the key topics heading into Sweden. The pair also delve into the history of Rally Sweden with the first edition of the Gravel Notes quiz.

 

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