Sweden debrief: part 1

It was cold but the action was red hot - in the first of our two-part debrief, we focus on the moments that mattered.

Turning Point
Thierry Neuville was a man under pressure. After taking the lead early on Friday morning, the Belgian was unable to break clear of a chasing pack headed by Craig Breen and by Saturday afternoon his advantage was a mere 4.6sec.

It all changed in the second pass of the 23.40km Hagfors test. Neuville flew his Hyundai i20 down the Värmullsåsen ski slope, through a set of tight hairpins and over a big jump to stop the clocks almost seven seconds faster than anyone else – and 9.4sec clear of Breen.

His lead was 14.0sec and Neuville was on his way to becoming only the third non-Nordic driver to win in Sweden.

Drive of the Rally
It’s not often we look outside the headline WRC category for this accolade, but last weekend Japanese youngster Takamoto Katsuta stopped us in our tracks.

He took on reigning WRC 2 champion Pontus Tidemand on the Swede’s home roads and led for virtually the entire rally to claim a maiden category victory by 4.5sec.

It was a remarkable performance by the Toyota Gazoo development driver and brought a smile to the face of team boss Tommi Mäkinen. How long before we see a Japanese driver in a Yaris World Rally Car?

Irish bobsleigh star Craig Breen

Save of the Rally
Colin’s Crest in Vargåsen is one of the season’s highlights for the WRC’s high-fliers. Jumps of up to 40 metres are common, but it almost went horribly wrong for Neuville in Saturday’s second pass when his i20 clipped a bank and landed on two wheels.

Co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul takes up the story: “I have three notes to tell Thierry. According to the timing of the first two, I have to say these before the jump and then I have one to read when we start to jump.

“When I read this note then I looked up and I couldn’t believe my eyes so much, we were completely on my side. I didn’t expect that!”

Take a look in the video below.

Quote of the Rally
Where else would we turn but the WRC’s champion of the one-liners – Craig Breen?

In the week the Jamaican women’s bobsleigh team took to the Olympic ice in Pyeongchang and 30 years on from the men’s breakthrough that inspired a cult movie, his view of Friday afternoon’s Svullrya test made us chuckle.

“Like Cool Runnings, you just get in the ruts and go!”

VIDEO

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