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 first career WRC podium with second place.
Mikkelsen had to fight off a late charge from Mads Ostberg, with the Norwegans 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 Ostberg less than 20sec behind. He then looked as though he might crack under the pressure being applied by the Citroen driver as he dropped five seconds on SS22, but rallied to hold on to the place with relative comfort.
Victory on the powerstage was some consolation for Ostberg (pictured below), who had taken his first stage win for Citroen earlier in the event.
The M-Sport Fords of Mikko Hirvonen and Ott Tanak 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 powerstage, and angering Ostberg in the process as well.
Sebastien Ogier in the third VW threw away his chance of victory 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 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 powerstage 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 Hanninen 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 spun and got stuck in a ditch before rolling on SS23.
Ketomaa looked certain to inherit the win, but Karl Kruuda overturned an 18.7sec deficit with a stunning charge on the powerstage.
Leading finishers after SS24: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Jari-Matti Latvala VW 3h00m31.1s 2. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +53.6s 3. Mads Ostberg Citroen +59.5s 4. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +2m26.9s 5. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford +3m00.5s 6. Sebastien 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