Torsby (Sweden) (AFP) - Belgium's Thierry Neuville opened up a commanding 28.1sec lead at Rally Sweden on Friday as the Hyundai driver and 2016 world championship runner-up coasted over ice-hard, snow-covered tracks.
Neuville won five of the day's eight stages to put clear daylight between himself and Finland's Toyota driver Jari-Matti Latvala.
World champion Sebastien Ogier, who won the season-opener in Monte Carlo, was down in fifth place, more than 57 seconds off the pace after starting the day having to lead out the field and act as 'cleaner' in his Ford Fiesta.
Estonia's Ott Tanak in another Ford was close to 50 seconds behind Neuville in third while Britain's Kris Meeke, behind the wheel of a Citroen, was fourth at just over 51 seconds off the lead.
"To lead the rally by such a margin is obviously very encouraging, but we are not getting carried away because we know how unpredictable this rally can be," said Neuville after a day which also saw the drivers pass briefly into neighbouring Norway.
"We had a decent first loop today, although it wasn?t perfect. In stage four, there were a lot of deep cuts and I hit something very hard with the front.
"My door kept opening slightly on the final stage, which was a distraction but overall the car has been working very well here and I?m optimistic for the rest of the weekend."
1. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 1hr 16min 24.7sec, 2. Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris) at 28.1, 3. Ott TÃ¤nak-Raigo Molder (EST/Ford Fiesta RS) 49.7, 4. Kris Meeke-Paul Nagle (GBR-IRL/CitroÃ«n C3) 51.8, 5. SÃ©bastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Ford Fiesta RS) 55.7, 6. Hayden Paddon-John Kennard (NZL/Hyundai i20) 1:17.8, 7. Dani Sordo-Marc Marti (ESP/Hyundai i20) 1:40.3, 8. Craig Breen-Scott Martin (IRL-GBR/CitroÃ«n C3) 1:54.3, 9. Elfyn Evans-Daniel Barritt (GBR/Ford Fiesta RS) 3:01.5, 10. StÃ©phane Lefebvre-Gabin Moreau (FRA/CitroÃ«n DS3) 3:23.6
Neuville (SS2, SS3, SS5, SS6, SS7), Latvala (SS1, SS4), TÃ¤nak (SS8)