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Breen struggles in snowy conditions as he drops down Arctic Rally leaderboard on difficult day

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Craig Breen

Craig Breen

Craig Breen

Ott Tanak will carry a 24.1-second lead into today's final leg of the Arctic Rally in the north of Finland.

The Hyundai i20 driver was in imperious form yesterday, going fastest on three of the day's six stages. A brush with a snowbank on the first run through 'Kaihuavaara' - which he later admitted he had been "lucky to escape" - was the only blot in the copybook of the 2019 World Rally Championship winner.

"All in all, everything has gone to plan so far," he said. "We had a good day, but the stages were very demanding, incredibly fast and there are always places where the pace notes are not 100%. It was important just to get through to the end of the day, and not to make any mistakes."

Kalle Rovanpera - the son of 2001 Rally Sweden winner Harri and the favourite in many people's eyes for the win this week - remained a constant thorn in the side of Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja.

However, his hopes of becoming the series' youngest ever victor were dashed after botched set-up changes.

"Tomorrow we have to push and see what we can do," said Rovanpera, whose lead over Tanak's team-mate Thierry Neuville shrank from 14.9 seconds to 1.8 seconds. Neuville worked wonders in his i20 Coupe after intercom problems and communication issues with Martijn Wydaeghe had held him up.

On his return to the series as part of a car sharing arrangement with Dani Sordo, Irishman Craig Breen struggled to preserve the studs on his Pirelli tyres and dropped from second to fourth.

"It's been a frustrating day, but we are still in fourth so it's not so bad," said Breen, 10 seconds ahead of Elfyn Evans.

There was drama late in the day when reigning champions Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia crashed 200m from the end of the final stage. The rear of their Yaris whacked a deep snow bank and the impact sent the front of their supermini off the road. The Frenchmen managed to dig it free using shovels and reached the end of the stage, but the 23 minutes they were stationery cost them 16 places.

Top 10 Positions: 1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 1h 43m 32.1s 2 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +24.1s 3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +25.9s 4 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +53.4s 5 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +1m 3.5s 6 Oliver Solberg/Seb Marshall (Hyundai) +1m 26.8s 7 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +1m 34.4s 8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (M-Sport Ford) +1m 49.3s 9 Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondson (M-Sport Ford) +3m 1.8s 10 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferme (Volkswagen) +4m 48.8s

A shadow has been cast over the second round of the World Rally Championship following the news on Friday that 1983 champion Hannu Mikkola lost his battle with cancer aged 78.

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