Thierry Neuville has put space between himself and rival Craig Breen at Rally Sweden by extending his lead to over 20 seconds at the end of Saturday’s action.

With Breen last than five seconds off of Neuville at the start of the afternoon loop an intriguing battle began with both drivers trading early stage wins. Neuville quickly fortified his lead with another stage win on SS14 and a pair of trouble-free short evening stages, topped by another stage victory on SS16, saw the Hyundai driver end the day’s action with a useful 22.7s lead on Breen.

The Irish driver will now be keeping a close eye on Andreas Mikkelsen’s progress with less than 10 seconds splitting the pair with Hyundai eager to maximise its opportunity to make up for a frustrating season opener at Rallye Monte-Carlo.

Paddon also remains in contention running in fourth place 16.6s off of Hyundai teammate Mikkelsen with Mads Ostberg keeping his Citroen in fifth place while the top five continue to be split by less than one minute.

Esapekka Lappi continues to lead the Toyota charge in sixth place ahead of teammate Jari-Matti Latvala by almost a full minute with M-Spord Ford’s Teemu Suninen a distant eighth place.

In a frantic SS13, Kris Meeke saw his Rally Sweden fall apart after sliding into a snow bank which forced him into a brief stop. After getting his Citroen restarted the Northern Irish driver was caught on the road by Ott Tanak behind him with the pair colliding and going off together.

Despite limping to the stage finish, with each driver appointing blame on one another, the collective damage from the offs forced Meeke out of the event but Tanak was able to continue in ninth place.

With Meeke’s exit defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier has moved into the final points position in 10th place with almost half a minute advantage on M-Sport Ford teammate Elfyn Evans in 11th.

Ford’s Katsuta Takamoto continues to lead the WRC2 class as his battle continues to intensify with local star Pontus Tidemand in the Skoda with the pair split by 12.2s at the end of Saturday’s stages.

Top 15 classification at Rally Sweden after SS16