Mikko Hirvonen will lead into the second day of Rally Sweden after maintaining his advantage through the Karlstad Superspecial on Friday evening.
Hirvonen was fifth fastest through the stage while Loeb set the quickest time to trim the Finn's lead to just over six seconds heading into the eight stages that make up day two.
"I wasn't happy with my driving or the car's set-up on the first two stages," Hirvonen said. "Before the final test I changed the centre differential and damper settings back to my 2009 set-up and it was a big improvement, I found a good rhythm. I tested new differential settings last week but the car just wasn't consistent in corners this morning and it felt more progressive after the change.
"This afternoon the conditions were strange. In places the roads were bumpy with deep ruts that acted like railway lines. In other places there was deep ice but no clear driving line and the penultimate stage was gravel with no ruts at all. It was generally very rough and the person who was brave enough to just go for it was the one who was fastest. I was on the limit many times. I'm not afraid of being first through the stages tomorrow and I will attack because my lead isn't big enough."
Loeb meanwhile insisted he hadn't been happy with the handling of his car as he faced the challenge of leading the way through the first day and said he was interested to see how Hirvonen would deal with the position on Saturday.
“I don't like it when the car isn't doing what I want,” he said. “There wasn't much grip and I couldn't get out of the ruts filled with soft snow and earth. But it's still all up for grabs and we'll see tomorrow how Mikko will cope with being first out. In any case if somebody has to act as sweeper second time round, it won't be me!”
The leading cars all came through the Superspecial unscathed, with the only change for position in the top ten seeing Mads Ostberg move ahead of Matthew Wilson into seventh. Having gone into the test 0.3 seconds behind Wilson, Ostberg will go into day two with an advantage of 0.7 seconds after outpacing the Stobart Ford man through the stage.
PG Andersson picked up a penalty for a jump start on the stage but remains nearly a minute clear of Janne Touhino in the SWRC fight, while Patrik Flodin leads the PWRC brigade.
Overall standings after Day One (Top 10):
1. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 01hours 08mins 04.8secs
2. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 06.2secs
3. Dani Sordo
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 10.6secs
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 31.7secs
5. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +01mins 10.9secs
6. Henning Solberg
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +02mins 16.2secs
7. Mads Ostberg
Adapta Subaru Impreza WRC +03mins 20.2secs
8. Matthew Wilson
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +03mins 21.1secs
9. PG Andersson
Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 16.1secs
10. Janne Tuohino
Ford Fiesta S2000 +05mins 15.3secs
13. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +06mins 45.3secs
30. Marcus Gronholm
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +13mins 38.3secs
47. Kimi Raikkonen
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +30mins 35.9secs
SWRC Standings after Day One (Top 3):
1. PG Andersson
Skoda Fabia S2000 01hours 12mins 20.9secs
2. Janne Tuohino
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 59.2secs
3. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 25.1secs
PWRC Standings after Day One (Top 3):
1. Patrik Flodin
Subaru Impreza 01hours 14mins 59.4secs
2. Anders Grondal
Subaru Impreza +00mins 21.0secs
3. Martin Semerad
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +01mins 53.8secs