SS6 / SS7: Latvala eats into Ogier's lead
Jari-Matti Latvala slashed Sebastien Ogier's Rally Sweden lead to just 1.0sec as the Frenchman endured two troublesome stages following the mid-leg regroup.
The windscreen wipers on Ogier's Volkswagen Polo R failed in the second pass through the Kirken?r stage, allowing team-mate Latvala to reclaim 5.8sec of the Frenchman’s lead.
Ogier worked on the following liaison section to make repairs but finished the following Finnskogen test with a smashed windscreen and buckled bonnet.
"The wipers still don't work, but on this one that wasn't a problem. I made another mistake by forgetting to put the bonnet pins back in on the road section. The bonnet flipped up and broke the windscreen. It was bad luck, but we do our best," Ogier explained.
Latvala was second in Kirken?r in his similar Polo R, before winning Finnskogen. "I was a bit lucky that Ogier had a problem, but it wasn’t easy because the roads were softer. There was ice but at the side of the ruts there’s lots of snow, and if you touch that you immediately lose grip," he said.
Kris Meeke's hopes of reeling in Thierry Neuville for fifth place ended in Finnskogen. "I made a stupid mistake. I went into a snow bank. I couldn’t find the entry point to a corner in the ruts," said the DS 3 driver, who lost almost three minutes.
Also in trouble in the same stage was Robert Kubica, the Pole dropping two minutes after limping through with a suspected differential problem in his Ford Fiesta RS. "Either that, or the propshaft or driveshaft," he said. "Now we have front-wheel drive only. All we can do now is cruise through the rest of today."
Yuriy Protasov was the surprise winner of Kirken?r, the Ukraine driver’s first WRC stage victory.
Lorenzo Bertelli, who struggled with just front-wheel drive in his Fiesta RS after a driveshaft problem, retired at the regroup after SS5.
click: wrc.com/friday-sweden/ss6 & ss7
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 Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala both went off the road.
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 Ostberg 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.
click: wrc.com/friday-afternoon/ss8 & ss9