Torsby (Sweden) (AFP) - Thierry Neuville's world championship curse struck for the second time in two races on Saturday when he crashed into a concrete barrier at Rally Sweden just when he was cruising to victory.
The Belgian Hyundai driver had taken a commanding 43.3-second lead over Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala in a Toyota into the day's final stage, a usually straightforward spin around the Karlstad hippodrome.
But Neuville misjudged a corner and lost the steering on his car after the left front wheel came off worst after hitting the barrier.
Last month, Neuville also led in Monte Carlo on the Saturday night only for a costly error on Sunday to cause him to hand victory to world champion Sebastien Ogier instead.
"There are really no words that convey how I feel right now. It was a very sudden end to what had been a good rally for us. We had spent all Saturday with a deliberate strategy to take things steady and to stay in control of the rally," said a crestfallen Neuville.
"We didn?t want a repeat of Monte, but that?s exactly what we got. I am so disappointed for the team, for Nicolas (Gilsoul, his co-driver) and myself but we have to put it quickly behind us. We can?t dwell on such things, however frustrating.
"We know we have the pace to win rallies with the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. We have the confidence and I am sure the results will come. Tomorrow, we come back under Rally 2 and we?ll go for Power Stage points. We will then fight back again in Mexico."
Neuville had been just 60km from his fourth career win on Saturday before disaster struck -- he had already hinted that there was no room for complacency.
"We all know what happened in Monte Carlo. Anything can still happen so we really have to be careful," he said before the dash around the Karlstad trotting track.
Latvala inherited the lead and he now has a 3.8sec advantage over Ott Tanak in a Ford Fiesta. Ogier, in another Ford, is third, 16.6sec off the pace.
One of Saturday's stages -- the 12th -- was cancelled with safety in mind.
At Monte Carlo, a fan died following an accident involving Hyundai's New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon.
"It's never good news to have a stage cancelled, but I understand," said Ogier.
It was a day to forget for British driver Kris Meeke who was sitting fifth overall before he lost control of his Citroen and ended up in the trees.
He lost more than eight minutes as a result.
1. Jari-Matti Latvala-Miikka Anttila (FIN/Toyota Yaris) 2h04:59.3, 2. Ott Tanak-Raigo Molder (EST/Ford Fiesta RS) at 3.8, 3. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Ford Fiesta RS) 16.6, 4. Dani Sordo-Marc Marti (ESP/Hyundai i20) 1:39.5, 5. Craig Breen-Scott Martin (IRL-GBR/Citroen C3) 2:04.5, 6. Elfyn Evans-Daniel Barritt (GBR/Ford Fiesta RS) 3:44.7, 7. Hayden Paddon-John Kennard (NZL/Hyundai i20) 5:00.2, 8. Stephane Lefebvre-Gabin Moreau (FRA/Citroen DS3) 5:37.0, 9. Pontus Tidemand-Jonas Andersson (SWE/Skoda Fabia) 6:36.7, 10. Teemu Suninen-Mikko Markkula (FIN/Ford Fiesta RS) 7:52.9
Neuville (SS2, SS3, SS5, SS6, SS7, SS14), Tanak (SS8, SS9, SS10, SS11), Latvala (SS1, SS4, SS13), Sordo (SS15)