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WRC Sweden: Latvala keeps narrow lead from Mikkelsen

Jari-Matti Latvala

Jari-Matti Latvala remains under pressure from Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen as the Rally Sweden lead battle continued on Friday afternoon.

Mikkelsen was just 1.6 seconds behind Latvala at the lunchtime service, in his first proper shot at victory in the World Rally Championship.

The more experienced Latvala was able to pull out a 9.6s lead through the full-length stages on the second loop of leg two, as Mikkelsen admitted that he did not want to risk throwing away a maiden WRC podium.

But Latvala's pace took a lot out of his tyres, meaning he struggled on the short Hagfors Sprint before service, bringing his lead back down to 4.8s.

Mads Ostberg has made third place more secure in the lead Citroen, pulling away from rivals Mikko Hirvonen and Ott Tanak.

The latter pair swapped places on the first stage of the afternoon when Hirvonen lost time behind M-Sport team-mate Robert Kubica, who was rejoining after a trip off the road, but Hirvonen was soon able to redress the balance.

It was a tough afternoon for Kubica, as he went off on both SS12 and SS14, losing over 10 minutes in each incident as he needed help from spectators to dig his Ford Fiesta out of the snow. He has therefore fallen outside the overall top 30.

Hyundai also had a painful time, with Juho Hanninen taking a front wheel off his car on the repeat run of the stage where team-mate Thierry Neuville had crashed in the morning.

Those incidents have helped Kris Meeke move up to sixth place, escaping from a fight with Pontus Tidemand, who is now under pressure from stepfather Henning Solberg.

Sebastien Ogier was the pacesetter throughout the afternoon, winning all four stages during the comeback charge prompted by his morning mistake.

The world champion is now back up to 10th and reckons a top-six finish is realistic.

The leg will conclude with the Karlstad superspecial on Friday evening.

Leading positions after SS15:

Pos Driver              Team/Car          Time/Gap
 1. Jari-Matti Latvala  VW                  1h47m09.7s
 2. Andreas Mikkelsen   VW                  +4.8s
 3. Mads Ostberg        Citroen             +42.3s
 4. Mikko Hirvonen      M-Sport Ford        +1m00.3s
 5. Ott Tanak           M-Sport Ford        +1m06.5s
 6. Kris Meeke          Citroen             +2m28.0s
 7. Pontus Tidemand     M-Sport Ford        +2m43.7s
 8. Henning Solberg     Solberg Ford        +2m46.1s
 9. Elfyn Evans         M-Sport Ford        +3m36.7s
10. Sebastien Ogier     VW                  +3m39.1s

Follow Rally Sweden as it happens on Race Centre Live.

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