After a fierce catch-up race, Thierry Neuville managed to take third place in the Swedish Rally.Still, the East Cantonner missed an excellent opportunity to make up points against title rival Rovanperä. The victory in Sweden went to Ford driver Ott Tänak.
With four fastest times in seven tests, Thierry Neuville was by far the fastest of the pack on Saturday. In the standings he jumped from sixth to third place, and also preceded reigning world champion – and probably major title rival – Kalle Rovanperä.
Although the young Finn made some efforts on Sunday morning to close the gap with Neuville, the Hyundai leader reacted appropriately by adding another fastest time to his credit. Even better, it even gave the Hyundai team management the opportunity to deliberately penalize Craig Breen, second at the time, before the start of the final Power Stage. Neuville even climbed to second place.
But things went wrong for Neuville on that Power Stage: one missed braking point left him sliding into a snow wall and losing a handful of seconds. Breen finally finished ahead of Neuville, and because Rovanperä managed to pocket three bonus points in the Power Stage (compared to zero for Neuville), the two ruffs close the Rally of Sweden with an identical point score.
“I was a bit scared in that last test,” Neuville admitted afterwards. “And so it wasn’t a good time either. Yesterday I was already on the limit a few times on the same stage, and now I wanted to make sure that I didn’t go wrong. Anyway, a new podium is a solid result.”
Ford driver Ott Tänak turned out to be the fastest in Sweden and also becomes the new World Championship leader. The Estonian is three points ahead of Rovanperä and nine ahead of Neuville. A bright spot: from that third place, the East Cantonner has a better starting position on the opening day of the next World Cup round in Mexico.