Rally Sweden goes down to the wire with a sensational three-way battle for honours between Ogier, Neuville and Mikkelsen
In a thrilling final stage showdown, reigning FIA World Rally Champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia clinched victory in Rally Sweden, the second round of the series. The duo were locked in a three-way battle for outright honours during the day, but overhauled overnight leaders Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul to claim the win by 6.4 seconds. Volkswagen team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Floene looked set to take their first-ever WRC victory, leading by three seconds going into the final stage. However, the Norwegians spun, lost over 40 seconds and dropped from first to third.In the FIA World Rally Championship, Ogier has extended his lead and takes a 23 point advantage into the first gravel round of the season in three weeks’ time. Neuville and Mikkelsen are equal on points behind the Frenchman with Jari-Matti Latvala in fourth. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, two victories from two events keeps Volkswagen Motorsport at the top of the leaderboard, albeit only 13 points ahead of Hyundai Motorsport.Today’s route covered just three stages and 46.74 competitive kilometres but the scene was set for an epic battle to the finish line. With the leading trio split by less than 10 seconds last night, there was everything to play for as the crews powered their cars over the frozen snow-covered forestry stages. Neuville, who led by a mere 1.5 seconds last night, hit problems in the first stage when the driver/co-driver intercom failed and he hit a snow bank and lost his lead to Mikkelsen. He was then overhauled by Ogier in the following stage and the trio went into the final live television stage split by just 4.6 seconds, Mikkelsen with the advantage. Flat-out, Ogier claimed the Power Stage victory when Mikkelsen spun, sealing him the Rally Sweden win in this final stage.Behind the podium battle, Ott Tanak claimed a fine fourth. The Estonian struggled early in the event but gained in confidence stage by stage and moved from fifth to fourth this morning when Mads Østberg spun following a problem with the handbrake. He finished 10th. New Zealander Hayden Paddon also put in an impressive performance to take fifth - his best WRC result - and Elfyn Evans won the battle with Kris Meeke to take sixth overall. Their close fight came to an end when Meeke hit a snowbank in the final stage. Martin Prokop was happy to claim eighth - despite a half roll this morning - ahead of Yuriy Protasov.In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, Jari Ketomaa and Kaj Lindstrom took honours in their Ford Fiesta R5, and Ole Christian Veiby and Anders Jaeger won the FIA WRC 3 Championship category in a Citroën DS 3.The third round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the contenders to the Americas and the oxygen-sapping mountains of Rally Guanajuato Mexico (5-8 March).