Thierry Neuville took the lead of Rally Sweden on Friday morning after winning the opening two speed tests to relegate overnight leader Jari-Matti Latvala.
Stage info: SS2 / SS3
SS2: Röjden 1, 18.47km
A classic stage used many times in national rallies. It starts in Sweden and crosses into Norway for 12km before returning to Sweden again. The stage offers a mix of fast and slower roads, with few junctions but an exceptionally tricky jump in the middle. Driven in the same format as last year.
SS3: Hof-Finnskog 1, 21.26km
A new stage that has never been used before. Narrow and winding roads in hilly areas mix with long straights and open landscapes to offer a little bit of everything. It is fast throughout with plenty of quick corners but several bumps which will require care.
The Belgian was 2.0sec faster than Kris Meeke in the opening Röjden special stage to climb into pole position in his Hyundai i20 Coupe. He then edged out Latvala by 0.6sec in the following Hof-Finnskog to lead by 4.6sec.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though. “The car was jumping around a lot in SS2, I wasn’t so happy with the suspension at the rear. It was a little bit better in the next one, more stable, but my pace notes were too fast in places and I was losing confidence and slowing down in places,” he said.
Fourth and second for Latvala was a solid start to the day, spent mostly in Norway, but he was unnerved by a scary incident at a jump on a long straight in SS2. The Finn said his Toyota Yaris topped 200kph several times during the fastest sections of SS3.
Meeke was a further 4.4sec behind in third in his Citroën C3, with Dani Sordo’s i20 Coupe and local hero Mads Østberg next up. Ott Tänak was Neuville’s closest challenger after Röjden, but the Estonian slipped back to sixth in his Ford Fiesta after the next test.
“It was very slippery at the beginning, which I’m not used to. The car seemed to get stuck between two gears. I don’t know what was happening but it was all a bit distracting,” he said.
Craig Breen was third in SS3 to sit just inside the top 10 on his Citroën C3 debut but it was a tough morning for road opener Sébastien Ogier. The Frenchman struggled for grip on the loose snow and was tied for eighth with Breen, 14.1sec off the lead.