Neuville assumes Rally Sweden lead

2017-02-10 19:58:31

After a stunning run through the first full day of Rally Sweden, Hyundai's Thierry Neuville has pulled out a 28.1 second advantage over nearest rival Jari-Matti Latvala, the pair battling throughout until the Belgian set a scorching pace in the penultimate stage to extend his lead significantly. Latvala briefly led earlier in the day, has enjoyed a largely trouble-free run and sits 21.6 seconds ahead of third-placed Ott Tanak, who flew up the leaderboard from fifth in the final stage.

The second round of the FIA World Rally Championship got underway last night at the now traditional super special stage in Karlstad. Latvala notched up Toyota's first stage win on its return to the series and headed the field into the longest day of the event. Neuville was on the pace immediately, however, and with fastest times in the first two stages jumped into the lead in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.

Latvala (below) snatched the advantage back in the third stage but this afternoon a sweep of three wins over the repeated stages saw Neuville retake the number one slot, a position consolidated when he took nearly 18 seconds out of the Finn in the penultimate stage.

latvala swedenChanges to the suspension setup aided Latvala's charge in the morning but this afternoon, running near the front of the field, he struggled with the lines set by the cars during the first passage and dropped time with a few mistakes. He is nevertheless 21.6 seconds ahead of Tanak.

The Estonian ran as high as second this morning but then suffered a gearbox problem which dropped him back to fifth by the midday service. With repairs he was back on the pace this afternoon and climbed to third, but a couple of mistakes and tire wear saw him drop back to fifth in the penultimate stage. Fastest in the final stage, however, catapulted him back up to third, just 2.1 seconds ahead of Kris Meeke. The Northern Irishman got stuck in a snow bank this afternoon, dropping 15 seconds and a position, but his battle with Tanak continued and he managed to retake the Estonian only to lose out again in the final stage.

Sebastien Ogier has struggled at the front of the field but climbed from an earlier ninth overall to fifth; the Frenchman ran as high as fourth but is now looking ahead to a more favorable road position tomorrow. He, Tanak and Meeke are however only split by a handful of seconds in the fight for third.

Hayden Paddon was way down the leaderboard this morning but changes to the setup this afternoon saw him claw back five places to hold station in sixth. Teammate Dani Sordo got distracted this morning and overshot a hairpin and then struggled with tire wear late this afternoon; he is seventh.

Craig Breen, in his debut competitive outing in the C3 WRC, is loving every minute in the 2017 spec car but he had an excursion into a ditch this afternoon and then a spin in the following stage left him with zero confidence for the rest of the afternoon. Behind the eighth-placed Irishman, Elfyn Evans is ninth. The Welshman dropped time this morning with a puncture and now sits ahead of Stephane Lefebvre who is driving a World Rally Car for the first time in Sweden.

Mads Ostberg, the first privateer to run a 2017 World Rally Car, was just outside the top 10, the Norwegian losing more and more time this afternoon after damaging and losing the Fiesta's rear wing. He ultimately opted not to run the final stage but will rejoin again tomorrow. Juho Hanninen was the other leading retirement, the Finn damaging the front end of the Yaris WRC after hitting a tree.

In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, the battle between Skoda Fabia R5 drivers Pontus Tidemand and Ole Christian Veiby has been fierce. Veiby held the early advantage but was overhauled by Tidemand in the final stage of the morning loop, the pair split by just 5.2 seconds. This afternoon, however, a couple of spins by Veiby enabled Tidemand to extend his advantage and the Swede is now nearly 40 seconds ahead of promoted Teemu Suninen, with Veiby now third. Louise Cook, the only competitor in the FIA WRC 3 Championship, completed today's route.

Rally Sweden – Provisional results after Section 3

1.   Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

1hr 16min 24.7sec

2.   Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila

Toyota Yaris WRC

1hr 16min 52.8sec

3.   Ott Tanak/ Martin Jarveoja

Ford Fiesta WRC

1hr 17min 14.4sec

4.   Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle

Citroen C3 WRC

1hr 17min 16.5sec

5.   Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

1hr 17min 20.4sec

6.   Hayden Paddon/John Kennard

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

1hr 17min 42.5sec

7.   Dani Sordo/Marc Marti

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

1hr 18min 05.0sec

8.   Craig Breen/Scott Martin

Citroen C3 WRC

1hr 18min 19.0sec

9.   Elfyn Evans/ Daniel Barritt

Ford Fiesta WRC

1hr 19min 26.2sec

10. Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau

Citroen DS3 WRC

1hr 19min 48.3sec

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