Latvala regains Rally Sweden lead as Neuville hits trouble

2017-02-11 17:46:01

The head-to-head battle between Hyundai's Thierry Neuville and Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala took another dramatic turn on Saturday afternoon. Neuville's rally was dashed by a suspension failure after he crashed into a roadside block on the day's final super special, losing a wheel. The incident effectively eliminates Neuville from contention and sets up an intriguing three-way duel on the final day between Latvala and the M Sport Fords of Ott Tanak and Sebastien Ogier, both of whom gained ground on the new leader.

Neuville (below) had taken control of the rally before his crash, extending his advantage to 32.8 seconds by Saturday's mid-point service.


Today's route was scheduled to take in two loops of three stages before the crews head south for the second and final run around the Karlstad super special stage. Neuville controlled the lead with a second- and two third-fastest stage times. Latvala ran without problems but admitted to being too careful in places. He was also the only driver to take two spare tires and suffered with the extra weight in the Yaris WRC – enabling the Fords to close in what has become a battle for the win.

Tanak, in particular, has been flying in the Fiesta WRC, putting Latvala under serious pressure with three fastest times. He is 14.2 seconds ahead of teammate Sebastien Ogier, who enjoyed a better road position on the second day of competition.

Kris Meeke has dropped behind the four-time FIA World Rally Champion and is now trailing by 14.1 seconds in fifth overall. The Citroen driver has run without problems but is simply struggling to match the leading pace. Dani Sordo, Craig Breen, Elfyn Evans and Stephane Lefebvre all moved up a position this morning, benefitting when Hayden Paddon had power steering failure in the opening stage and lost a lot of time from there on, dropping from sixth to 10th.

In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, a string of fastest times saw Pontus Tidemand extend his lead to over a minute. Behind him, the battle between Teemu Suninen and Ole Christian Veiby continues; Veiby managed to climb back into second after the first stage but his Fiesta rival inched ahead again after the third stage. They go into the afternoon stages split by 5.5 seconds. Louise Cook continues her lonely drive as the only competitor in the WRC 3 Championship category.

The first stage this afternoon, a re-run of the new 31.6-kilometer Knon stage, has been canceled for safety reasons following an analysis of the average speeds.

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