Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala heads the pack on Rally Sweden following SS9 this afternoon.

Latvala, who began the second loop 2.9 seconds adrift of his former team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, moved back in front of his compatriot in SS8, when he topped the times. The Ford WRT #1 driver then increased his cushion decisively in the penultimate test of the day despite complaining about a lack of grip.

Hirvonen also struggled in Torsby, as did many of the front runners due to a lack of snow, and the Finn was only eighth fastest in his Citroen DS3 WRC with his tyres 'completely finished' at the end of the 19.21 km test.

Behind, Petter Solberg moved up to third, vaulting Mads Ostberg, after opting to save fresh tyres for SS9. He was easily quickest in the final proper stage of the day, 7.4 seconds up on Latvala. The Norwegian now lies just 2.8 seconds off 'silver'.

Ostberg meanwhile slipped down to fourth, 11.6 seconds back, with Evgeny Novikov fifth in his M-Sport Ford WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC. The gap between P4 and P5 however is more considerable, at almost 40 seconds.

Henning Solberg rounds out the top six - another 30 odd seconds down the road - with Sebastien Loeb seventh, having lost almost 2 minutes when he went off the road in SS7 and got stuck in a snow bank. Loeb had been just 6.9 seconds off the lead before his error in Kirkener 2.

Of the rest, Patrik Sandell is now the lead MINI John Cooper Works WRC car in P8, after his team-mate, Dani Sordo was forced out post-Finnskogen 2. Early reports suggest it was some sort of technical problem, possibly to do with the engine, although that has yet to be confirmed by Prodrive. Sordo had been running fifth overall.

Martin Prokop and Eyvind Brynildsen complete the top ten, ahead of the VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 cars of Sebastian Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen and SWRC class leader, P-G Andersson.

The opening leg now concludes this evening with a second and final run through the short Karlstad Super Special. SS10, Karlstad 2, is due to start at 19.20 hours local time.

Rally Sweden: Overall standings after Stage 9 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC 1hour 22mins 16.8secs M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 17.2secs M
3. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 20.0secs M
4. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 31.6secs
5. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 11.5secs M
6. Henning Solberg Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 46.8secs
7. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +02mins 09.7secs M
8. Patrik Sandell Prodrive MINI John Cooper Works WRC +02mins 16.3secs
9. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 24.6secs
10. Eyvind Brynildsen Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 56.1secs

Others

11. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +03mins 07.5secs
12. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +03mins 15.1secs
13. P-G Andersson Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 +03mins 55.4secs S
14. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +04mins 16.1secs M
15. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +04mins 36.7secs
16. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +06mins 01.4secs S
17. Mikko Pajunen Subaru Impreza STi R4 +06mins 02.1secs
18. Michal Solowow M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 13.7secs M
19. Peter Van Merksteijn Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC +06mins 23.6secs
20. Pontus Tidemund Skoda Fabia S2000 +08mins 11.2secs S

SWRC standings after Stage 9 - Top 3:

1. P-G Andersson Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 1hour 26mins 12.2secs S
2. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 56.0secs S
3. Pontus Tidemund Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 05.8secs S

Notable retirements:

SS2. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Went off
SS8. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta RS WRC Accident
SS8. Dani Sordo Prodrive MINI John Cooper Works WRC Engine

all times unofficial

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