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Thierry Neuville builds commanding Rally Sweden lead

Neuville builds commanding Rally Sweden lead
By AutoSport

10/02/2017 at 20:46Updated 10/02/2017 at 21:46

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville completed a dominant afternoon of World Rally Championship action on Rally Sweden, retaking the lead and extending it to a commanding 28.1 seconds.

Neuville lost the lead to Jari-Matti Latvala on the last stage of the morning loop after hitting a rock, but was back ahead in the Hof-Finnskog test.

He then took 17.9s out of Latvala through Svullrya, the stage he had hit the rock on in the morning.

Despite his door opening on the stage, Neuville extended the gap further on the Torsby test.

Latvala struggled through that penultimate test, overdriving the car and making small mistakes.

He consolidated second overall, 21.6 seconds ahead of Ford Fiesta WRC driver Ott Tanak.

Tanak had a gearbox change at service after his car was skipping to neutral on occasion while down shifting.

The Estonian yo-yoed around the top 10 before a stage win on SS8 - coupled with a poor time by Citroen's Kris Meeke - meant he jumped from fifth to third.

Meeke stole third from Tanak on the penultimate stage of the day, another second-quickest time to match one from the morning means the C3 WRC driver is in podium contention in fourth place.

On the Torsby test, though, he said his driving was "horrible" and that he was "really slow" after losing many of the studs in his tyres.

Tanak's team-mate Sebastien Ogier struggled with cleaning the road but a rapid time in Svullrya limited the damage.

He is 3.9s behind Meeke but 55.7s adrift of Neuville with two days of action to go.

With the new FIA regulations, unlike 2016, Ogier won't have to run first on the road on Saturday and will have a better chance of competing for stage wins.

Hayden Paddon put in a resurgent performance after changes at service unlocked a much more "drivable" Hyundai.

Having been at the back end of the top 10, the Kiwi was in the top five on all of the final three stages of the day to jump team-mate Dani Sordo for sixth.

Craig Breen - in his first appearance in a 2017-spec WRC car - lost confidence after putting his Citroen in a bank.

He holds eighth ahead of Elfyn Evans who combined flashes of pace with a puncture that sent him down the order.

Mads Ostberg had an arduous afternoon including losing the rear wing of his new 2017-spec Ford Fiesta WRC over a fast crest.

The wing was returned after a social media campaign by the team, which will now work with M-Sport to uncover the reason it detached, while the Norwegian did not start the final stage.

Juho Hanninen, Latvala's Toyota team-mate, retired after hitting a tree for the second rally in a row.

Skoda works driver Pontus Tidemand is dominating WRC2, over half a minute ahead of works M-Sport Fiesta driver Teemu Suninen.

Follow Rally Sweden from 7am UK time on Saturday, with Autosport Race Centre Live.

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