Neuville wins penultimate stage to protect second place

Hyundai driver goes half a second faster than Lappi as they fight for the runner-up spot in Sweden


Thierry Neuville looks poised to seal second place on Rally Sweden barring any late disaster as he outpaced Esapekka Lappi once more on the event’s penultimate stage.

With most positions all but settled and points up for grabs on the final test, nobody was really up for a push on Vindeln 2.

But neither Neuville nor Lappi were sent that script. The pair are both in a fight for second so simply had to push in order to stake their claim for the position.

Neuville however looks to have it in his grasp, outpacing Lappi by 0.5 seconds on SS18 to carry an advantage of 3.7 seconds into the powerstage; even though he struggled on the stage.

“I have absolutely no traction in there, it was a nightmare to be honest,” said Neuville. “It looks like the grip is low for everybody but I struggled still to get the confidence.”


Lappi meanwhile echoed his sentiments from Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning: “It’s been like this all the time, yeah it’s not over but I cannot catch.

“It would be nice to battle with Thierry but like I said I just can’t do it.”

At the front of the rally, Kalle Rovanperä “was not pushing” as he feels his “gap is quite good”. He’s not wrong, as the Toyota driver has 21.6s in hand over Neuville’s Hyundai.

M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith was quickest of the drivers not to be on a charge, describing his run as “literally just tootling around”.

Oliver Solberg was so calm that he was driving one-handed down the final straight, but he was still far quicker than Takamoto Katsuta.

Toyota junior Katsuta is fourth with Greensmith fifth and Solberg sixth.


Craig Breen and Paul Nagle had an incredibly relaxed run even considering their cautious approach to Sunday, going even slower than they had done on the first pass in a bid to save the studs on their tires (as they’re not carrying a spare) for the powerstage.

There was plenty of banter flowing between driver and co-driver, including just before they set off as they spotted one of the start-line marshals eating a sandwich.

“Did you catch that?” laughed Breen in surprise.

“She was having a baguette thing and she was munching away at it just as we were about to start the stage and it looked lovely, but I reckon it had butter in it and me and our Paul don’t like butter so we didn’t ask for a bite.”

Despite the M-Sport pair’s sedate pace, they were still quicker than Ott Tänak who was a massive 31.1s slower. But despite the tactic, Tänak reckoned the road conditions could count against him and Breen on the powerstage.


“I think for us with Craig it will be a big job to get some points but we need to try, it’s our only chance to get something,” he said as both drivers sit outside of the overall top 10.

Andreas Mikkelsen looks odds on to win WRC2 in seventh overall with his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo as rival Ole Christian Veiby spun on the stage. Veiby lost 17.3s to Mikkelsen, so now trails by 22.1s.

“I gave it all, it’s disappointing,” said Veiby, just after hitting his steering wheel in frustration.

“I really tried but I hit a snowbank and spun around. But OK that’s rallying, it’s been a great, great fight during the weekend it’s been so fun.”

With his gap now secure Mikkelsen can now ponder his powerstage tactics. Asked if he would push, he comically replied: “I’m already feeling a bit sick pushing this morning!”

Mikkelsen’s Toksport team-mate Nikolay Gryazin was also in the wars, giving up his ninth overall and third in class when he ran a touch wide and got swallowed by a snowbank in a narrow sequence of switchback turns.


It promotes M-Sport’s Jari Huttunen into the final WRC2 podium spot and Egon Kaur into the overall top 10.

SS18 times

1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 6m02.1s
2 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +0.5s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +3.1s
4 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +8.4s
5 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +19.0s
6 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +22.2s
7 Eerik Pietarinen/Antti Linnaketo (Volkswagen) +24.6s
8 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda) +25.8s
9 Jari Huttunen/Mikko Lukka (M-Sport Ford) +26.3s
10 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +26.6s

Leading positions after SS18

1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 2h04m13.2s
2 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +21.6s
3 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +25.3s
4 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +2m18.5s
5 Greensmith/Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +3m13.3s
6 Solberg/Edmondson (Hyundai) +5m37.2s
7 Mikkelsen/Eriksen (Škoda) +6m22.6s
8 Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (Volkswagen) +7m03.8s
9 Huttunen/Lukka (M-Sport Ford) +7m40.1s
10 Egon Kaur/Silver Simm (Volkswagen) +7m53.6s