Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville holds a slender lead in Rally Sweden over teammate Andreas Mikklesen as rivals Sebastian Ogier and Ott Tanak struggled thanks to their starting positions on the road
Tanak had been the pace setter on Thursday night’s superspecial stage, and lead the way after the opening round of action on Friday morning. From then on though he fell back through the field massively, along with Rallye Monte Carlo winner Sebastian Ogier thanks to the pair starting the day one and two on the road. Tanak slated the huge amount of snow on the following stage, saying the organisers could go “screw themselves”, and that the “snowplow must have turned off” towards the end of stage three. Ogier meanwhile struggled even more being first on the road, and is currently only 12th of the WRC runners having sunk further on the final stage of the day thanks to teammate Elfyn Evans.
Neuville meanwhile catapulted into the lead by winning the Svullrya stage in the morning, Andreas Mikklesen taking second place on the Rojden stage and thus began a Hyundai fight for the overall lead. The pair have ended the day with just 4.9s between the two of them, with Citroen’s Craig Breen right behind them for much of the day having starred all week and leading the fight for the French manufacturer. Breen was in P3 right up until the final stage of the day when Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon set the pace on the Torsby stage to sneak ahead of Breen by just 0.5s. The Irishman was lured into a mistake in the final stage of day as Paddon jumped up to third from fifth. Paddon is running his first rally of the year in the third Hyundai, taking over from Dani Sordo who ran the car in Monte Carlo.
Mads Ostberg in his one off return for Citroen also put on a great show, surprising himself on Thursday night with his pace and ending Friday P5 overall and just 13.2s from the overall lead, meaning the top five are covered by less than 15 seconds and all very much within a chance of winning the event come Sunday. Ostberg and Breen totally outshone Citroen’s main man Kris Meeke however, with Meeke 1m43.6s from the lead and languishing down in 10th place. Tanak later apologised for his outburst towards the WRC officials but it didn’t help Toyota’s form. Tanak and Jari-Matti Latvala are currently 9th and 8th respectively with Esapekka Lappi in 7th, but Lappi was right in the thick of the lead fight earlier in the day before getting his air filter clogged with snow after drifting off, losing power on SS6 and plummeting down the order.