Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen
has moved into the lead of Rally Sweden with just the Karlstad Superspecial stage remaining on the opening day of the 2010 season.
Hirvonen held second place going into the afternoon loop of stages but was able to move ahead of Sebastien Loeb
in SS5 as the defending champion struggled with deteriorating road conditions and slipped down to third place.
Hirvonen won again on SS7 to take a lead of 8.4 seconds into the Superspecial stage, with Loeb moving back ahead of team-mate Dani Sordo into second place with a strong run on SS6.
Behind the top two, Sordo remains very much in contention and is less than four seconds behind his team-mate, despite concerns about the engine on his C4 WRC during the sixth stage. Those worries proved to be unfounded as he went third quickest through SS7 to cement his place heading to Karlstad.
Jari-Matti Latvala – winner of SS6 – remains in fourth place but there have been changes behind after Marcus Gronholm suffered an electrical problem on the same stage, which saw the Finn lose over twelve minutes to plummet down the order.
Gronholm's issues have allowed Sebastien Ogier
to climb to fifth place ahead of Henning Solberg, while Matthew Wilson
and Mads Ostberg
round out the top eight; the pair split by less than half a second as Ostberg looks to bounce back from problems with his engine and a trip off the road on stage five.
That same stage saw Petter Solberg
lose time after he went off the road and then collided with Wilson's car after the Briton stalled his car under braking. Solberg now lies in 14th place as a result.
S2000 WRC leader PG Andersson holds ninth place with closest rival Janne Tuohino in the final points scoring position, while the PWRC brigade are headed by the Subaru of Patrik Flodin.
Kimi Raikkonen's trip into a snowbank on SS6 has seen him drop down to 47th place heading to the Superspecial.Overall standings after Stage 7 (Top 10):
1. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 01hours 06mins 27.8secs
2. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 08.4secs
3. Dani Sordo
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 12.2secs
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 31.6secs
5. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +01mins 10.2secs
6. Henning Solberg
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +01mins 46.0secs
7. Matthew Wilson
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +03mins 17.6secs
8. Mads Ostberg
Adapta Subaru Impreza WRC +03mins 17.9secs
9. PG Andersson
Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 02.3secs
10. Janne Tuohino
Ford Fiesta S2000 +05mins 09.0secs
14. Petter Solberg
C4 WRC +06mins 45.4secs
31. Marcus Gronholm
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +13mins 38.4secs
47. Kimi Raikkonen
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +30mins 30.9secs
MSWRC Standings after Stage 7 (Top 3):
1. PG Andersson
Skoda Fabia S2000 01hours 10mins 30.1secs
2. Janne Tuohino
Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 06.7secs
3. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 31.0secs
SPWRC Standings after Stage 7 (Top 3):
1. Patrik Flodin
Subaru Impreza 01hours 13mins 13.1secs
2. Anders Grondal
Subaru Impreza +00mins 23.5secs
3. Martin Semerad
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +01mins 55.9secs