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Mikkelsen leaps into Swedish lead

The Rally Sweden leaderboard sees Volkswagen, Hyundai and Citroen world rally cars in a tight battle for honours on one of the most spectacular rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship
Volkswagen Motorsport driver Andreas Mikkelsen leapt up the Rally Sweden leaderboard late this afternoon after team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala both went off in the same stage. The Norwegian climbed from third to first in the penultimate stage of the day and heads Hyundai i20 WRC driver Thierry Neuville by 19.1 seconds. In a neck and neck fight, Mads Østberg in the DS 3 WRC is just three tenths of a second further adrift after 10 of the 21 scheduled stages.
Rally Sweden got underway last night with the now traditional super special stage at the Karlstad trotting track and Sweden’s own Pontus Tidemand was a popular winner of this short 1.9 kilometre test in his Ford Fiesta RRC. Today, however, the crews headed into the snowy forests for two identical loops of four stages – three largely based in Norway – before returning to Karlstad for the second and final run around the super special stage. Ogier immediately powered into the lead and by the mid-day re-group, three victories from the first four stages helped him build up a 9.1 second advantage over Latvala. This afternoon, however, the Frenchman lost time with intermittent windscreen wipers and, while trying to fix the problem on a road section, the crew failed to secure the bonnet and were forced to slow in stage 7 when it flew up and cracked the windscreen. While Ogier’s lead over Latvala diminished, the Frenchman remained in control until hitting a snow bank in the final forestry stage, dropping him nearly 40 seconds and three positions. Latvala, winner of two stages, had been matching Ogier’s pace but he too went off the road in the same stage, getting stuck in a ditch and losing over eight minutes and potentially the lead. He plummeted to 23rd as a consequence and team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen – another stage winner – found himself heading the leaderboard of Rally Sweden.
Neuville has climbed from fifth, his improving pace throughout the day being rewarded with a stage win in SS9, but the Belgian and Citroën’s Mads Østberg are in the thick of a battle. Ogier is also only a further 5.3 seconds adrift and behind him, Ott Tanak is fifth in the lead Fiesta RS WRC. The Estonian went off the road in the first stage and his team-mate Elfyn Evans has struggled with confidence and is 10th overall. Hayden Paddon is sixth after a trouble-free day and he heads Martin Prokop, Yurii Protasov and Henning Solberg. After a fine showing during yesterday’s shakedown, Robert Kubica overshot a junction this morning and then plummeted down the leaderboard with a broken propshaft this afternoon.  
Rally Sweden – Unofficial Results after Section 4

1.   Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Floene

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 14min 03.6sec

2.  Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 WRC

1hr 14min 22.7sec

3.   Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson


1hr 14min 23.0sec

4.   Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 14min 28.3sec

5.   Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 15min 09.8sec

6.   Hayden Paddon/John Kennard

Hyundai i20 WRC

1hr 15min 40.7sec

7.   Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 16min 04.1sec

8.   Yurii Protasov/Pavlo Cherepin

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 16min 15.0sec

9.   Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 16min 21.8sec

10. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 16min 53.2sec