Kris Meeke has been forced to retire from the lead of the Tour de Corse after developing engine issues, with a charging Thierry Neuville elevated from third to a surprise first following two stage wins.

Meeke had been looking to eke his overnight advantage out over Sebastian Ogier, but a smoking C3 would spell trouble in the final stage of the morning ahead of the midday service.

Gallingly for Meeke, though he made it to the end of the stage to cling onto his lead by a mere 1.5secs, Citroen has confirmed it is retiring the Englishman from the event, elevating Neuville into the lead.

Promoting a surprised Neuville into the lead, the Belgian came into Leg 2 having ended day one 18secs adrift of Meeke and also behind Sebastien Ogier. However, rapid times through SS5 and SS6 saw him claw back almost all of that ground as Meeke struggled with technical issues.

Indeed, Neuville was already up to second at the expense of Ogier after going 8secs faster, only to almost leapfrog to the front outright when Meeke dropped 16secs. He will now move front when Meeke is removed from the classification.

Though desperate fortune for Meeke, it marks a big turnaround for Hyundai's Neuville, who made up for a relatively quiet first day by topping both stages comfortably and making the most of his main rivals' problems. Even so, while Ogier struggled in the Ford Fiesta, he remains within 8secs of the lead himself, setting up a thrilling three-way battle.

Despite complaining of his pace, Dani Sordo ascended back to fourth place at the expense of Craig Breen, the Irishman suffering from a loss of intercom, though both now run third and fourth respectively.

Both managed to stretch clear of elevated fifth place Jari-Matti Latvala in the Toyota, who in turn is now under threat from Hayden Paddon, who joined Hyundai team-mate Neuville in making good gains this morning. The Kiwi is now 16secs behind the Rally Sweden winner.

Meanwhile, the morning loop saw two other retirements after Stephane Lefebvre hit the wall and stopped, while Elfyn Evans' frustrating rally came to a definitive end with an accident. Day one retiree Juho Hanninen, meanwhile, restarted and notched up a pair of top three stage times to give Toyota some asphalt encouragement, while Ott Tanak is also underway again.

Andreas Mikkelsen continues to lead the WRC2 class in the Skoda and is now up to eighth overall, more than a minute clear of Teemu Suninen and Yohan Rossel

 

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