Toyota City, Japan, Feb 3, 2023 – Sweden was the scene of TGR-WRT’s first victory in 2017 when Jari-Matti Latvala – now Team Principal – claimed a shock win in only the team’s second event. Since then the team has taken three further wins in the rally’s last three editions, including the first victory for the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID one year ago in the hands of Kalle Rovanpera.
That result kick-started Rovanpera’s run to his first drivers’ championship, and the Finn will again arrive in Sweden this year effectively leading the race for the title. Last month he completed a one-two finish for TGR-WRT on the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo behind Sebastien Ogier — who heads the standings but does not include Sweden in his part-season programme.
Takamoto Katsuta therefore steps up to be part of the main three-car line-up for the first time, alongside Rovanpera and Elfyn Evans — who won in Sweden in 2020. Having often rallied on snow and ice in Finland as part of his training through the TGR WRC Challenge Program, Japanese driver Katsuta also has a strong record in Sweden, taking a breakthrough WRC2 win there in 2018 and finishing fourth overall last year.
TGR-WRT will still have four cars in action in the top category in Sweden, as Italy’s Lorenzo Bertelli becomes the first customer driver to compete in the GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID.
Part of the inaugural WRC season 50 years ago, Rally Sweden is the only true winter round on the calendar. Last year it moved to a new home in Umea: the largest city in northern Sweden and closer to the Arctic Circle than it is to the country’s capital of Stockholm. As well as providing a greater guarantee of the extreme conditions the rally is known for, the move also brought even quicker roads. Special studded tyres bite into the surface to provide impressive grip; helping make this one the fastest rallies of the year with drivers ‘leaning’ their cars on snow banks by the sides of the road to carry more speed through corners.
The rally will begin on Thursday evening with a short ‘sprint’ stage in Umea, which is run again on Friday following two loops of three stages: Brattby and Sarsjoliden to the west were driven on Saturday and Sunday respectively last year, while Botsmark to the north is new. Saturday’s repeated loop of three stages begins with two new tests: Norrby and Floda, which is the most northerly stage of the rally and also the longest at 28.25 kilometres. A double-length version of the Umea stage rounds out the day, and will also serve as the rally-ending Power Stage on Sunday following two passes of another new test, Vastervik.