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WRC - Sweden, SS10-11: Neuville’s relief

Belgian on top after dramatic Saturday morning

17 February 2018 - 11h45, by www.wrc.com 

A relieved Thierry Neuville continued to lead Rally Sweden after a dramatic Saturday morning in which the top four drivers traded places in every special stage.

Neuville firstly fixed the problem with his Hyundai i20’s automatic paddle shift gearchange which hampered him in the opening Torntorp test. He then spun in the Hagfors stage before steadying the ship with fastest time in Vargåsen.

The relieved Belgian returned to service in Torsby with a 5.9sec lead over Craig Breen, the biggest advantage he has held since taking the lead yesterday morning.

“I had a 360° spin, there was nothing I could do to avoid it. I’m pretty sure Andreas (team-mate Mikkelsen) destroyed a snow bank in front of me,” explained Neuville. “Craig is driving very quickly but for the moment I feel we can control it.”

Sure enough, Mikkelsen had spun at the same place two minutes earlier. “I maybe lost 15sec. I touched the bank a bit, the car twisted around and I had to reverse,” said the Norwegian, who plunged from second to fourth, before climbing back to third in Vargåsen.

He trailed Breen by 11.7sec, the Irishman enjoying a clean morning in his Citroën C3 to be the only interloper in a top four dominated by Hyundai.

Hayden Paddon completed the leading quartet, 1.6sec adrift of Mikkelsen and looking forward to the afternoon’s repeat pass of the stages.

“I struggled to find the line between overdriving and underdriving. We knew we would struggle this morning because the car is set-up too aggressively, but it will be better this afternoon. We had to be patient and we’ll try to close up this afternoon,” said Paddon.

Mads Østberg was just 2.3sec behind the Kiwi in fifth, the Norwegian struggling for confidence after making small set-up changes to his C3 but still capable of launching a monster leap over the famous Colin’s Crest jump in Vargåsen.

Toyota Yaris team-mates Esapekka Lappi and Jari-Matti Latvala were sixth and seventh. The latter regretted an opening corner mistake in Vargåsen when he lost several seconds after swiping a snowbank, which also caught out Henning Solberg and Sébastien Ogier.

Ott Tänak added another stage win in Hagfors to his earlier Torntorp success and the Estonian was up to eighth. A glum Teemu Suninen lost three places in his Ford Fiesta after spinning in Hagfors and clipping a bank in Vargåsen while Kris Meeke completed the leaderboard.

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