Jari-Matti Latvala moved into the lead of the World Rally Championship after earning his second win for Volkswagen with victory on Rally Sweden.
Latvala took control of the rally on Friday afternoon and drove faultlessly on Saturday to pull comfortably clear and claim a third win in Sweden, ahead of
VW teammate Andreas Mikkelsen, who secured a maiden WRC podium with second place.
Mikkelsen had to fight off a late charge from Mads Østberg, with the Norwegians locked in the rally's most entertaining battle as it entered its conclusion
on Saturday afternoon.
Mikkelsen had led the rally intermittently but lost a significant amount of time to Latvala with an error on the final morning that cost him 30 seconds and
put Østberg less than 20 seconds behind.
He then looked as though he might crack under the pressure being applied by the Citroen driver as he dropped 5 seconds on SS22, but he rallied to hold onto
the place with relative comfort.
Victory on the power stage was some consolation for Østberg, who had taken his first stage win for Citroen earlier in the event.
The M-Sport Fords of Mikko Hirvonen and Ott Tänak had been in the mix in the early stages but dropped back from the leaders during a rather anonymous final
day, though they retained fourth and fifth, respectively.
Their teammate Robert Kubica endured a nightmare rally, crashing several times, including on the final power stage, and , as
Sébastien Ogier, in the third VW, earlier in the week, making a
self-confessed "stupid mistake" by getting stuck in a snow bank while leading the rally.
The champion lost more than four minutes in the incident on Friday, dropping outside the top 20 in the process, but he fought back admirably and nicked
sixth place from the returning Henning Solberg on the penultimate stage. He is five points behind Latvala after finishing only fifth on the power stage as
his teammate took two points for second.
Kris Meeke was another driver to err in tricky conditions when, having looked set to finish sixth for much of the rally, he spun on SS18 and got stuck in a
ditch. He recovered to 10th by the end, helped by rookie Elfyn Evans crashing out on the very last stage.
For the second rally in succession, Hyundai showed promise before both cars hit problems. Thierry Neuville and teammate Juho Hänninen crashed on Friday
morning and afternoon, respectively, having run in the top eight throughout Thursday.
There was a remarkable finish in the WRC2 class. Yazeed Al-Rahji held a one-minute advantage over Jari Ketomaa heading into SS22, but he spun and got stuck
in a ditch before rolling on SS23.
Ketomaa looked certain to inherit the win, but Karl Kruuda overturned an 18.7-second deficit with a stunning charge on the power stage.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jari-Matti Latvala VW 3h00m31.1s 2. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +53.6s 3. Mads Østberg Citroen +59.5s 4. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +2m26.9s 5. Ott Tänak M-Sport Ford +3m00.5s 6. Sébastien Ogier VW +4m29.9s 7. Henning Solberg M-Sport Ford +4m47.5s 8. Pontus Tidemand M-Sport Ford +5m38.2s 9. Craig Breen Kel-Tech Ford +8m55.4s 10. Kris Meeke Citroen +11m18.0s
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