Neuville sweeps to lead in Australia as Mikkelsen falters

Neuville slides through a corner on the second day of Rally Australia

Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville dominated day two to take the lead in the season-ending Rally Australia around Coffs Harbour on Saturday.

The Belgian won three of the day's five stages to hold a 20.1 second lead heading into Sunday's final day of five more stages in forests, before a ceremonial finish to the 13-round season.

Frenchman Sebastien Ogier has already won the 2017 World Rally Championship, but Neuville holds a 14-point advantage in second place over M-Sport's Estonian driver Ott Tanak, with a maximum 30 points available in the final leg of the season.

With his fourth victory of the season in sight at the end of Sunday’s 65 kilometres of competition, Neuville said he was aware of the need to balance speed with caution.

"This one was a bit more slippery," he said after the 12km stage 13 known as Argents Hill.

"I struggled a bit with the oversteer. Not so much fun but the stage time is still good.

"We have to keep on the good rhythm and keep pushing, but don’t go too hard."

Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala was second in his Toyota Yaris but dropped 13 seconds despite winning stage 10.

The 31-year-old Finn has finished runner-up three times in Australia, but has yet to break through.

Tanak took stage 11 and third place in a Ford Fiesta from Citroen C3 driver Kris Meeke.

Meeke dropped out with suspension failure after stage 12, handing fourth place to team-mate Craig Breen.

The day’s main casualty was overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen, who retired on the second morning stage after two punctures.

Mikkelsen is expected to rejoin for Sunday's final leg, but has lost the chance to successfully defend his 2016 Australian crown.