Ford World Rally Team's Jari-Matti Latvala has concluded the opening leg of Rally Sweden on top.

Latvala led early on this morning, before being overhauled by Mikko Hirvonen. Going into the second loop, the 26-year-old was 2.9 seconds adrift, but he fought back and gained considerable ground in SS9. He will now start the second day with a 16.8 second advantage.

"My start position strategy paid off and it was an excellent day," Latvala summed-up. "I made a few small mistakes this morning which cost me the lead and the car oversteered a little, but that improved as the day continued. I knew I was losing time to [my team-mate] Petter [Solberg] in the penultimate stage because my studs were more worn, but I remained calm and it turned out that other drivers were losing even more.

"Today was the hardest for the tyres but the grip remained good this afternoon. I must keep pushing tomorrow and it's important to stay focused. Keeping clear of the snow banks will be key because it's all too easy to be dragged into the soft snow and become stuck," he added.

Hirvonen meanwhile will head the chasing pack tomorrow in his Citroen DS3 WRC car, closely followed by the second works Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC car of Petter Solberg.

"The car was sliding so much [in the penultimate test, SS9] that I couldn't push. We were so close today that it is frustrating to lose so much time. Everything is still to play for, however. I'll be pushing hard tomorrow to try and catch Jari-Matti," Hirvonen vowed.

"It was a fantastic afternoon for me," Solberg added. "I chose to switch tyres later than everyone else. Although I lost time to everyone on the short stage [SS7] after they made their changes, I gained more time on new tyres over the next two longer tests. I also adjusted the front ride height and softened the dampers before the last long stage and it worked perfectly. I want to keep the car exactly as it is now."

Behind Mads Ostberg still has a reasonable chance of a podium and is only 13.7 seconds off P3, followed by fellow Ford Fiesta RS WRC runners, Evgeny Novikov and Henning Solberg.

"This afternoon was okay, but on SS9 unfortunately we took only one spare and we had a problem with the tyres so one tyre on the front was worn," Novikov noted. "There was nothing we could do and we lost over 30 seconds on one stage, so I am really very disappointed about that. Tomorrow we will drive with the same speed we had today and hopefully we can make up some time."

Sebastien Loeb finishes the day out of position and in seventh, after losing just under 2 minutes this afternoon when he went off the road in his Citroen DS3 WRC and got stuck in a snow bank in Kirkener 2.

"I was caught out when I got a little bit too sideways into a left-hand bend, which lead onto a right-hand hairpin. I couldn't manage to turn the car and slid off, ending up stuck in a snow bank," Loeb explained. "Some spectators came to push us back onto the road, but we lost almost two minutes. I'm out of the running for a place on the podium; we now have to make sure we make it to the end and pick up as many points as possible."

Of the rest, Patrik Sandell leads the MINI charge in eighth, ahead of Martin Prokop and Eyvind Brynildsen, who round out the top ten.

In the SWRC, P-G Andersson has dominated and he now has a 2 minute 7.7 second margin over Craig Breen.

In terms of retirements, Sweden claimed two notable scalps today, namely Jari Ketomaa and Dani Sordo. Both went out in SS8 - they will not rejoin under Rally 2 (the new name for the SupeRally). Alister McRae was another casualty, having gone off the road in SS3. He is expected to re-start, along with the likes of Paulo Nobre.

The action now continues on Saturday and includes two loops of four stages with around 118 competitive kilometres on the bill. SS11, the 24.063 km Vargasen 1 stage, gets underway at 07.58 hours local time [06.58 hours British time].

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

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC 1hour 23mins 50.8secs M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 16.8secs M
3. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 18.6secs M
4. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 32.3secs
5. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 12.1secs M
6. Henning Solberg Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 48.5secs
7. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +02mins 08.9secs M
8. Patrik Sandell Prodrive MINI John Cooper Works WRC +02mins 18.8secs
9. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 26.9secs
10. Eyvind Brynildsen Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 59.8secs


11. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +03mins 09.7secs
12. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +03mins 20.3secs
13. P-G Andersson Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 +04mins 01.4secs S
14. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +04mins 20.0secs M
15. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +04mins 37.4secs
16. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +06mins 09.1secs S
17. Mikko Pajunen Subaru Impreza STi R4 +06mins 10.7secs
18. Michal Solowow M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 18.3secs M
19. Peter Van Merksteijn Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC +06mins 27.6secs
20. Pontus Tidemund Skoda Fabia S2000 +08mins 07.3secs S

SWRC standings after Stage 10 - Top 3:

1. P-G Andersson Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 1hour 27mins 52.2secs S
2. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +02mins 07.7secs S
3. Pontus Tidemund Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 05.9secs 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 Went off

all times unofficial