Thierry Neuville extended his Rally Sweden lead on Saturday to over 22 seconds ahead of nearest challenger Craig Breen
Neuville’s lead had been slashed thanks to a spin during the morning, which allowed Citroen’s Breen to close in within 6 seconds of the Hyundai and to be right in contention for his first ever WRC win. Both Neuville and teammate Andreas Mikklesen spun at the same place on SS10 Hagfors which initially dropped Mikklesen out of the top three. He did however manage to recover back into 3rd place and began to chase down Breen and Neuville.
Throughout the rest of the day, Neuville steadily increased his lead over Breen despite the Irishman producing very fast stage times and having arguably the rally of his life and Neuville himself having a scary moment at Collins Crest. On the Karlstad superspecial where he crashed out of the lead last year, Neuville kept it clean and extended his advantage to nearly 20 seconds before going over that after SS16 to finish the day on top by 22.7 seconds. Breen will now have one eye on his rear view mirrors as Mikklesen is edging ever close to the runner up spot.
There was plenty of drama further down the field. Kris Meeke was forced to retire after hitting a snowbank, and as he limped back with an engine problem, he and Ott Tanak made contact as the Citroen attempted to let the Toyota through. This has left Tanak in a bit of a no-mans-land and more than a minute behind 8th placed man Teemu Suninen in his first rally of the year for M-Sport Ford. The top five is completed by Hayden Paddon and Mads Ostberg, who is still having a very solid run in his one off outing for Citroen, but is now far behind being in podium contention. Sunday sees the final three stages played out as Neuville and Hyundai chase their first win of 2018.