Mikko Hirvonen has extended his lead during the second afternoon of Rally Sweden to secure a lead of more than 16 seconds over Sebastien Loeb - with five stages left to run on Sunday.

Hirvonen had held the lead overnight but saw Loeb trim his advantage to barely four seconds by the mid-day service, but Hirvonen then went on the attack on the repeat run through the stages in the afternoon.

Despite concerns about tyre wear on the second run through the tests, Hirvonen pushed through SS13 to extend his lead over Loeb by 2.7 seconds and then went nearly eight seconds quicker than the Frenchman on the following stage having elected to change his front tyres.

Loeb ran through SS14 on the same tyres before switching ahead of SS15, but he lost more time on the repeat run through Frederiksberg to hand Hirvonen a lead of some 23 seconds. While Loeb went quicker than Hirvonen through the short Hagfors Sprint stage that brought the day to an end, it is the Ford man who will lead the way into day three.

"I had a great feeling on the two big stages this afternoon when I took time from Loeb," Hirvonen said. "I had a tyre strategy and it worked but it required great commitment. There was a lot of gravel on the roads and conditions were tricky for the tyres because stud retention was so difficult. My lead is far from comfortable and Loeb will push me very hard tomorrow.

"It's great fun to be involved in such a big fight for the lead. I didn't think first in the start order today would create any problems and it didn't. My only mistake came when I stalled at the start of the final stage this morning but it only cost a couple of seconds."

Behind the top two, there was a change for third place after Dani Sordo ran into problems on SS15, with the Spaniard forced to stop to clear snow that was preventing air from getting into the engine compartment and causing the engine to overheat. The loss of a minute clearing the blockage allowed Jari-Matti Latvala through into third place after a solid afternoon for the Ford number two - who was quickest on both SS13 and SS15.

Sebastien Ogier runs in a lonely fifth place at the end of the second day despite being another driver to struggle with his tyres during the afternoon loop and is comfortably clear of the first of the Stobart Ford Focus', with Henning Solberg rounding out the top six.

Solberg's team-mate Matthew Wilson managed to battle his way back ahead of Mads Ostberg in the battle for seventh place on the opening stage of the afternoon while Petter Solberg now lies back in the points in ninth place after battling back up the order following his day one issues. SWRC leader PG Andersson rounds out the top ten.

Further down the order, Marcus Gronholm's difficult rally continued as he picked up a puncture on SS13 and lost another seven minutes. The Finn bounced back to win SS14 - his favourite stage of the event - but he then lost further time with a brief trip off road on the penultimate stage of the day. As a result, the former champion will start the final day down in 29th place, six spots ahead of Kimi Raikkonen who enjoyed a steady run through the afternoon stages in his Citroen.

Andersson continues to hold a dominant lead in the SWRC with an advantage of nearly a minute over Janne Touhino, but it was third placed Martin Prokop who secured some of the headlines on the final stage of the day when he powered his Fiesta S2000 to the quickest time overall on the repeat run through Hagfors. However, the Czech driver still sits more than two minutes away from the lead.

In the PWRC, Patrik Flodin retains the lead with a lead of more than a minute over Anders Grondal. Armindo Araujo lies third, a further minute and a half behind.

Overall standings after Day 2 (Top 10):

1. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 02hours 14mins 48.3secs M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 16.6secs M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 51.4secs M
4. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +01mins 46.2secs M
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +02mins 42.1secs M
6. Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +03mins 47.9secs M
7. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +05mins 44.1secs A8
8. Mads Ostberg Adapta Subaru Impreza WRC +05mins 57.3secs M
9. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +08mins 35.2secs A8
10. PG Andersson Skoda Fabia S2000 +08mins 48.1secs S


29. Marcus Gronholm Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +22mins 43.7secs M
35. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +33mins 40.6secs M

SWRC Standings after Day 2 (Top 3):

1. PG Andersson Skoda Fabia S2000 02hours 23mins 36.4secs S
2. Janne Tuohino Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 52.4secs S
3. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 +02mins 05.8secs S

PWRC Standings after Day 2 (Top 3):

1. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza 02hours 27mins 53.8secs P
2. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza +01mins 19.4secs P
3. Armindo Araujo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +03mins 34.6secs P