WRC Rally Sweden: Tyre strategy helps Neuville extend his lead

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.

WRC Rally Sweden: Tyre strategy helps Neuville extend his lead

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 lighter 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 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, was slow for the remainder of the stage and was soon caught by Tanak.

The Estonian 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, who had been 10th, from the rally.

His demise promoted Sebastien Ogier - winner of the season opening Monte Carlo Rally - into 10th in his M-Sport Ford.

Follow live updates from the final two stages of Rally Sweden's Saturday action with Autosport from 4:45pm UK time

Leading positions

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 2h19m15.6s
2 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 18.8s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 30.8s
4 Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 38.4s
5 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 56.5s
6 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 1m04.9s
7 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 1m59.9s
8 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 2m16.1s
9 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 3m41.1s
10 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 4m22.1s
11 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 4m49.0s


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WRC Rally Sweden: Neuville keeps hold of lead as Breen closes in
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WRC Rally Sweden: Neuville heads Breen into final Rally Sweden day

WRC Rally Sweden: Neuville heads Breen into final Rally Sweden day
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