Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen has taken the lead on Rally Sweden following the opening loop this morning.
Hirvonen, who was sixth quickest in the short Karlstad SSS last night, started the day with the third best time in SS2. He was then fourth in SS3, before topping the times in SS4 and SS5, to move ahead of his former Ford team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala. Hirvonen now heads into the 15 minute remote service with a 2.9 second advantage.
“I knew the car would be fast here and I had a really good feeling. Everything went well and I think I can go even faster,” said Mikko.
Latvala meanwhile, who set the joint fastest time in the first stage today and he was second in SS3, was only fifth in SS4 and SS5. The Finn was not happy and admitted he kept making small mistakes in his Ford WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC.
“My decision to start down the order was the right one. Conditions were good but I made several small mistakes which cost about five or six seconds,” Latvala confirmed. “Sometimes the rear of the car slid away and that affected my confidence.
“I'm going to try and work on resolving that and increasing the grip. When it happened it broke my rhythm and then I made more mistakes. It's only a small issue but I didn't feel quite as comfortable as I wanted.”
Mads Ostberg is next up, 7.4 seconds further back, and after sharing the stage honours in SS2, he went on to post two sixth quickest times in SS3 and SS4, before bouncing back and ending the loop with the second fastest in SS5.
Behind, Sebastien Loeb is now 2.4 seconds adrift of the final podium place and 12.7 seconds off the lead. The Frenchman would have been right in the thick of things and second overall, but for a 10 second penalty.
“We changed the set-up at the last minute and ended up arriving at the control point a minute late,” Loeb explained. “We'd be fighting it out for the lead if we hadn't picked up the penalty. The differences in the times are always very small in Sweden and the ten seconds won't be easy to make up [now]. Like Mikko, we played it safe by taking two spare tyres with us [for this loop].”
columnist and Ford WRT man, Petter Solberg rounds out the top five, a spin in SS4 costing him around 10 seconds.