After seven stages – all of which were new for drivers following the event’s relocation north to Umea this season – Neuville’s buffer stands at a shade over four seconds.

A second fastest time on Friday’s closing ‘Umea Sprint’ was enough to turn the complexion of the event on its head. Going into it, Neuville had moved to within six tenths of then leader Elfyn Evans.

Evans, however, was powerless to defend his position as the studded tyres being worn by his GR Yaris Rally1 car had seen better days and couldn’t serve up the kind of grip the double WRC runner-up craved.

“We had a very clever afternoon – we managed our tyres very well and the car was working perfectly,” said Neuville who was forced to carry out some rushed checks on his I20 N Rally1 car’s hybrid system on the road section between SS2 and SS3.

“We made some small set-up changes in service – only small ones – and I felt comfortable, so I was able to drive fast,” added the Belgian.

Another big mover on the day's last stage was Kalle Rovanpera. With Evans unable to keep his supermini on the desired line through corners, it opened the door to the young Finn. He didn’t require a second invitation and happily traded places with his Toyota team-mate.

On his Rally1 debut for the Toyota Gazoo Racing squad, Esapekka Lappi lies fourth overall. He briefly led the rally – one of five different people to do so – despite lacking seat time in the hybrid-powered supermini.

Oliver Solberg impressed this morning but went backwards over the afternoon loop as he struggled to preserve the life of his tyres. The young Swede isn’t under any pressure, though, as the gap to him and Takamoto Katsuta is 50.8 seconds.

Adrien Fourmaux’s cautious approach following his huge Rallye Monte Carlo shunt last month places him seventh ahead of M-Sport Ford running mate Gus Greensmith who was handicapped by transmissions gremlins and a trip into a snowbank.

Hyundai Motorsport’s Ott Tanak was a late retirement on Friday after gremlins struck the enerrgy recovery kit in his car. In a short statement, his team said: “Unfortunately, an issue with the hybrid kit triggered the red light on car #8 and by FIA regulations, and as a safety precaution, we will have to retire Ott’s car for today.

“We will investigate the issue once the car is back in service," it added. The Estonian was second at the time, 1.1 seconds off the then rally leader, Evans.

On the event's second test M-Sport Ford’s Craig Breen bowed out when he careered into a snow bank. A few miles earlier up the road the Irishman escaped with damage to the front of his car but he wasn’t so lucky second time around and blamed the error on washer fluid freezing up on his windscreen.

Rally Sweden resumes tomorrow morning at 7.57am UK time when crews will tackle the first of six stages. Saturday’s itinerary has lost the Örträsk test (SS9/13) – the equivalent of 25 miles – due to the movement of reindeer herds in the area.