Thierry Neuville leads Rally Sweden after a thrilling battle with Jari-Matti Latvala on the snow-lined stages outside Hagfors.
The Hyundai driver completed the longest leg with a 28.1sec lead after a big push in the afternoon stages. Ott Tanak’s Ford is third, a further 21.6sec behind Latvala’s Toyota.
Neuville won the day’s opening two tests across the border in Norway to head Stage 1 winner Latvala. However, the Finn fought back to lead at the lunchtime break as the duo pulled clear.
Neuville charged in the afternoon, including a stage win by nearly 18 seconds on the second-last test of the day. The Belgian extended his lead in the final stage, despite a loose door.
“Jari-Matti had the advantage of the conditions this morning, but this afternoon was better for me as the driving line was cleaner and I tried to take the benefit,” said Neuville.
“The last stage was tricky in the dark and my door was opening which disturbed me.”
Tanak was the only other driver to win a stage. The Estonian climbed back into the top three after his Ford Fiesta’s gearbox was replaced after jumping out of gear.
Kris Meeke was 2.1sec behind in fourth. The Citroen driver losing third to Tanak after a mistake when he lost time in a snowbank.
Clearing the snow was not ideal for Sebastien Ogier who sits in fifth, 3.9sec behind Meeke. Hayden Paddon was next, the Kiwi revitalised in the afternoon after set-up changes to his i20.
“I sat with my engineer Rui at lunch and we made some changes to the car to make it easier to drive, not necessarily changes to make it faster, just to get some confidence back in,” said Paddon.
“The afternoon was certainly a big step in the right direction. Things don’t quite feel 100% yet, we’re working on it piece by piece, but the feeling’s starting to come back and we’re starting to enjoy it this afternoon.
“I think we can start our season proper tomorrow. I’ll get in the car with a lot more confidence with a setup that’s working and try to get a bit of momentum on our way.”
Dani Sordo was seventh after overshooting a hairpin when loose netting in his car disturbed his concentration. Craig Breen twice plunged his C3 into snowbanks en route to eighth, with Elfyn Evans ninth after losing more than 90sec with a puncture. Stephane Lefebvre completed the leaderboard.
Juho Hanninen retired his Yaris with a damaged radiator after hitting a tree, while Mads Ostberg withdrew before the final stage after losing his Fiesta’s aerodynamic rear wing.
VIDEO: Morning Stages
VIDEO: Afternoon Stages
POSITIONS: Rally Sweden – Leg 2