Mikko Hirvonen further extended his lead this morning on the Rally Sweden, the opening round in the 2010 World Rally Championship.
Hirvonen started the third and final leg with a 16.6 second advantage over Sebastien Loeb in his Ford Focus RS WRC car and he stretched that to 23.7 seconds during the opening two speed tests.
Mikko was second fastest through the 21.87km Rämmen, just 0.2 seconds behind his French rival. However, the 29-year-old Finn was 7.3 seconds quicker than Loeb through the following 23.41km Värmullsåsen to leave Hirvonen in a happy frame of mind as he returned to Hagfors for service.
"It has been a great morning so far," said Hirvonen. "I'm pleased I've taken a few more seconds from Loeb to widen my lead, but I need to remain fully focused because conditions are going to be tricky on these two stages when they are repeated. The stage after service, which we are driving for the first time, should be better."
Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile holds third, and he is still comfortably up on Dani Sordo in fourth. With nothing to gain by attacking, Latvala opted for a cautious drive through the two stages and was fifth in Rämmen and third in Värmullsåsen to return to service 60.8 seconds clear of P4.
"There's nothing special to report from the morning," said Latvala. "I wanted to go out and have a steady, clear run because I don't need to push. My times were good and I enjoyed it. I attacked hard yesterday and I think it was too much because I was going sideways and losing time. This morning I have been less aggressive and more precise and my times were good."
Further down the order there was no change in the top ten, with Sebastien Ogier fifth, followed by Henning Solberg, Matt Wilson, Mads Ostberg, Petter Solberg and SWRC leader PG Andersson.
Andersson continues to hold a dominant lead in the SWRC, 40 seconds up on Janne Touhino, with Martin Prokop third.
In the PWRC, Patrik Flodin retains the lead over Anders Grondal. Armindo Araujo lies third, a further 2.5 minutes back.
Overall standings after SS18 (Top 10):
1. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 02hours 39mins 13.0secs
2. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 23.7secs
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +01mins 12.4secs
4. Dani Sordo
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +02mins 13.2secs
5. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +03mins 18.0secs
6. Henning Solberg
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +04mins 57.3secs
7. Matthew Wilson
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +06mins 40.0secs
8. Mads Ostberg
Adapta Subaru Impreza WRC +08mins 20.5secs
9. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +09mins 25.8secs
10. PG Andersson
Skoda Fabia S2000 +10mins 28.9secs
26. Marcus Gronholm
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +23mins 08.7secs
32. Kimi Raikkonen
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +37mins 18.6secs
SWRC Standings after SS18 (Top 3):
1. PG Andersson
Skoda Fabia S2000 02hours 49mins 41.9secs
2. Janne Tuohino
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 41.2secs
3. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta S2000 +02mins 27.9secs
PWRC Standings after SS18 (Top 3):
1. Patrik Flodin
Subaru Impreza 02hours 54mins 45.8secs
2. Anders Grondal
Subaru Impreza +01mins 15.6secs
3. Armindo Araujo
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +04mins 04.0secs