WRC Sweden: Latvala extends lead as Mikkelsen slips back
|Saturday, February 8th 2014, 10:42 GMT|
Jari-Matti Latvala holds a strong lead ahead of the final loop of Rally Sweden after taking a clean sweep of stage wins at the start of Saturday.
Latvala dominated the morning's four stages to move 42.7s clear of Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, who hit trouble on SS18.
Mikkelsen, still in the running for a maiden World Rally Championship podium, had started the day 3.6s behind Latvala but damaged his front-right suspension on the second stage after cutting a corner.
His Polo WRC's air intake was blocked by snow as he went off-road, and he ended the stage with smoke emanating from the engine, but he regrouped without serious consequence.
Mikkelsen's attention thus turned to the Citroen of Mads Ostberg, who finished each of the quartet of stages in the top three to close to just 16.6s behind the former rally leader with four stages still to run.
Behind the lead trio, Mikko Hirvonen eked clear of M-Sport Ford team-mate Ott Tanak in the battle for fourth. They are comfortably clear of Henning Solberg's privately-entered Fiesta, which now has the recovering Sebastien Ogier bearing down on it for sixth place.
The champion struggled to assert himself on the top of the stage times during a morning where tricky conditions made it difficult for the early runners, but was consistently quicker than those immediately ahead of him.
His rise to seventh was aided by Kris Meeke, who lost several minutes on SS18 with a spin that caused his Citroen DS3 to get stuck in a ditch and dropped to 13th.
Robert Kubica's nightmare rally continued with another crash right at the end of the morning loop. He was caught out on the morning-ending Varmullasen run, tagging a bank and spinning into a tree. The ex-Formula 1 driver continued after a three-minute delay, but slipped further down the leaderboard to 19th.
Leading positions after SS20:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jari-Matti Latvala VW 1h48m47.6s 2. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +42.7s 3. Mads Ostberg Citroen +59.3s 4. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +1m54.2s 5. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford +2m16.8s 6. Henning Solberg Solberg Ford +3m56.5s 7. Sebastien Ogier VW +4m24.1s 8. Pontus Tidemand M-Sport Ford +4m52.5s 9. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +5m47.2s 10. Craig Breen KelTech Ford +7m43.9s