Sweden WRC: Neuville pulls clear of Breen, Meeke out
Thierry Neuville added to his Rally Sweden lead on Saturday afternoon's loop as he and nearest challenger Craig Breen opted for different tyre strategies.
With gravel beginning to protrude from the icy roads on the second run through the Torntorp and Hagfors stages in particular, most crews - including the three Hyundai contenders - opted to take two spare tyres for the remainder of the day that includes the Karlstad and Torsby stages later this evening.
In pursuit of his first World Rally Championship win, Breen was an outlier in this regard as he and the M-Sport Ford runners opted for a single spare, and immediately got closer to Hyundai's leader at the head of the standings with his third stage win of the rally on SS12.
But Neuville, who had spun earlier in the day, hit back on the following Hagfors stage and set the fastest time of all by 6.6 seconds, extending his earlier advantage of 4.6s over Citroen man Breen to 14s.
Neuville produced another stage win on the final test of the loop, the repeat run of Vargasen, to end the afternoon with 18.8s in hand over the C3 WRC of Breen.
Andreas Mikkelsen had no repeat of the spin on SS10 in his own Hyundai that briefly cost him a top three spot, and gradually pulled away from the third i20 of Hayden Paddon after the New Zealander got within two tenths of third place on SS12.
Mads Ostberg changed his set-up again before the start of the second loop and reported he felt far more comfortable by the end of the Vargasen stage.
The Norwegian, who is making a one-off appearance in a Citroen C3 this weekend, dropped away from the fight for the final podium position but stabilised his buffer back to the leading Toyota Yaris of Esapekka Lappi with the fifth-fastest time on SS14. The gap betwen the two is now 8.4s.
Jari-Matti Latvala was a frustrated seventh overall in his Yaris, complaining at the end of the final stage of the loop that his car was "not OK' and its transmission was "all over the place".
He has 16.2s in hand over the leading M-Sport Ford Fiesta of Teemu Suninen, who moved up to eighth on Saturday afternoon after Ott Tanak encountered more frustration.
Kris Meeke's engine cut out after the Citroen driver hit a snowbank on SS13 and, while he was able to get going again, he was slow for the remainder of the stage and was soon caught by Tanak.
Tanak attempted to pass Meeke, but the pair were involved in an incident on one of the narrower parts of the road that meant Tanak forfeited more than a minute and a half on the stage.
Citroen announced after the stage that it had retired Meeke from the rally.
Meeke's demise promoted Sebastien Ogier - winner of the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally - into 10th in his M-Sport Ford.
Sweden WRC: Neuville holds narrow lead over Breen
Sweden WRC: Neuville leads into final day, top-six battles tighten
About this article
|Drivers||Andreas Mikkelsen , Thierry Neuville , Craig Breen|
|Article type||Leg report|