SS8 / SS9: Mikkelsen on
top after Torsby drama

Andreas Mikkelsen emerged from Friday’s penultimate special stage of Rally Sweden as a surprised leader after Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala both went off the road.

Stage info: SS8 / SS9

SS8: Röjden 2, 18.73km
A classic stage run many times in national rallies, it was last used in this event in 2011, but in the opposite direction. It starts in Sweden, before crossing into Norway and ending back in Sweden. The stage offers a mix of fast and slower roads, with an exceptionally tricky jump just ahead of a square right corner.

SS9: Torsby 2, 14.76km
Same name, but a very different stage to the 2014 version as the opening 11.70km are new. It starts with several tight corners before a long straight leads onto a wide road. It narrows as cars turn into a quarry, with flowing ‘rallycross-style’ curves and a jump before the finish at Torsby Ski Tunnel. It was twilight as the leading cars started.

Ogier started the Torsby test with a 2.9sec advantage over Volkswagen team-mate Latvala and was the first to suffer near the start.

“We hit a snow bank in a slow corner. I made a mistake and braked too late for a junction. I thought it would be OK but I hit the bank and got stuck. As first on the road I had to take risks. It was my only chance to try to do something,” said the Frenchman, who dropped almost 40sec into fourth.

Then it was Latvala’s turn, the Finn ditching his Polo R just 400 metres from the finish and losing 8min 30sec before spectators manhandled his car back onto the road.

“After a long straight we came too fast into a right corner. I saw some gravel on the road and thought the grip would be better, but the rear hit a snow bank and it pulled the front in. I kept full throttle on but the whole car was dragged into the ditch,” he explained.

Second fastest Mikkelsen headed to Karlstad for the final stage of the leg with a 19.7sec lead over Thierry Neuville (pictured below), who claimed fastest time in his Hyundai i20 by 1.0sec. Mads Østberg dropped time to them in both tests, and the DS 3 pilot is 0.9sec further back.

In trouble on the previous stage was Elfyn Evans, another to fall victim to the snow. “I didn’t get enough turn into a junction. I used the handbrake and thought we’d bounce off a snow bank, but instead we bounced up and became beached,” explained the Ford Fiesta RS driver, who lost almost two minutes and fell from sixth to 10th.

Martin Prokop has lost fourth gear in his Fiesta RS but the Czech driver is up to seventh.

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