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WRC - Sweden, SS12-13: Neuville extends Sweden lead to 14sec

"I went wide a few times"

17 February 2018 - 15h40, by www.wrc.com 

Rally Sweden leader Thierry Neuville created daylight between himself and his rivals for the first time on Saturday afternoon.

After spending almost two days fending off his challengers by no more than a handful of seconds, the Belgian delivered a stunning drive on the gravelly roads of the Hagfors speed test to stretch his advantage to 14.0sec over Craig Breen.

The Hyundai i20 driver completed the 23.40km stage 6.6sec faster than team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, and nearly 10sec up on Breen.

“I had quite a big push in there and the car worked well. It was a very tricky stage and easy to go off. I went wide a few times but kept the rhythm towards the end,” said Neuville.

While most drivers opted to carry two spare wheels, Breen gambled on saving weight by choosing one and the vast amount of gravel did him no favours.

“That was just what I didn’t want. I tried to manage the tyres and not load them so much. It was probably the trickiest stage of the rally so far,” said the Citroën C3 driver, who was fastest in the previous Torntorp stage.

He had a 12.8sec advantage over Mikkelsen in third, with Paddon hard on his heels and just 3.5sec behind.

There was plenty of drama further down the order for Kris Meeke and Ott Tänak after the Briton’s C3 dived into the snow early in the stage.

“A simple mistake, I just nosed into a snow bank and when I got back out and got going there was no engine power, nothing. We got out and cleaned everything. Then Ott tried to pass me. I was right over in the ditch but he hit me and then went off,” explained Meeke.

Tanak’s view? “I caught Kris, tried to pass in a narrow place and he pulled back and hit us off the road,” he said. The Estonian dropped two minutes to plunge to ninth, while Meeke conceded six minutes in the stage before retiring on the next liaison section with engine problems.

Elfyn Evans dropped 20sec after a lurid high speed spin into a snow bank in his Ford Fiesta.

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