Volkswagen’s balance of power shifts to its young Norwegian as its star names shunt.
Andreas Mikkelsen has taken a shock lead in Rally Sweden after his Volkswagen team-mates Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala both went off during the final forest rally stage of the day.
Ogier spun early in SS9’s Torsby stage, losing well over 30s. He ended the stage with many of his dashboard alarms flashing, as the off had filled his car’s radiators with snow.
“We hit a snowbank in a slow corner,” said Ogier. “I made a mistake, braked a bit too late and went spinning backwards. I got stuck as well. I had to push and take risks, it was the only chance to do something.”
Meantime, just a few minutes later, Latvala crashed on the exit of a right-hander just 600 metres from the end of the stage, ditching his VW Polo just as he was poised to take the lead overall.
“Basically I came too fast into the corner and expected the grip to be better,” he said. “I kept full throttle but it went to the ditch and the whole car got stuck-in. Everything is OK with the car, it’s just that we got stuck.”
Mikkelsen inherited the lead, and was incredulous when told of the news.
“Why? So Seb has a problem as well?” he asked. “OK, that makes things interesting. But Seb will never give up.”
Thierry Neuville set the fastest time on the stage, elevating his Hyundai to second overall. “If we had the quick-shift and the better engine, we would be right in the fight,” he said.
Mikkelsen leads Neuville by 19.7s, with Citroen’s Mads Ostberg now third. Ogier has dropped to fourth, 26.1s off the lead. Latvala lost 8m26s, and is now completely out of contention for victory.
The day concludes with a superspecial in Karlstad tonight.
Leading positions after SS9:
1. Mikkelsen Volkswagen 1:12:27.7
2. Neuville Hyundai +19.7
3. Ostberg Citroen +20.6
4. Ogier Volkswagen +26.1
5. Tanak Ford +1:06.1
6. Prokop Ford +1:36.0
7. Protasov Ford +1:59.1
8. Solberg Ford +2:11.8
9. Evans Ford +2:17.8
10. Meeke Citroen +2:47.4