Thierry Neuville put the demons of 2017 to rest with a dominant win in this years Rally Sweden ahead of Craig Breen, and with the win takes the championship lead from Sebastian Ogier
Neuville took the lead of the event from SS2 on Friday morning and never conceded it. He saw off challenges from first teammate Andreas Mikklesen, and then a brilliant Breen who closed up dramatically after Neuville had a spin on Saturday mornings loop. Breen gave it everything but could not take the lead from Hyundai, but his second place was still an improvement on his third place from Rally Finland from 2016 and marks a big improvement for the Citroen C3 which struggled massively in Sweden last year. Mikklesen finished in third place as Neuvilles win gave him the championship lead.
Esapekka Lapi recovered brilliantly to take fourth place following a run into a snowbank on Friday, which clogged his air filter with snow and caused him to lose power. He took the place from Hayden Paddon on the last day, who finished ahead of Citronen one off Mads Ostberg and last years Rally Sweden winner Jari-Matti Latvala. Teemu Sunninen finished as the top Ford driver in his first outing of the year for M-Sport, as Ott Tanak and Sebastian Ogier had nightmare events, Tanak only finishing 9th after sweeping the road on Friday and having a run in with Kris Meeke. Ogier only picked up four powerstage points, and finished the rally 11th after taking a penalty for dropping down the starting order ahead of the powerstage.
Elfyn Evans took the final points positing in 10th, ending a difficult weekend for the M-Sport team as they and Toyota saw a stark contrast in their results compared to Monte Carlo, where Ogier won and Tanak and Latvala finished on the podium in P2 and P3 respectively. Neuville is now 11 points clear at the top of the drivers championship on 41, with Ogier on 30 and Latvala in third place with 23. Tanak has dropped to fifth place behind Lappi, who is on 23 points compared to Tanak’s 21.