Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier has seized control on Rally Sweden this morning, winning two of the three stages to establish a good early lead.
Ogier was only ninth in the short Karlstad super special stage last night, however, he immediately moved to the front this morning, posting the quickest time in Lesjofors 1, 2.2 seconds up on team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala. That gave the Frenchman a slender 0.2 second lead, something he stretched to 6.2 seconds in SS3, Varmullsasen 1, when he was again fastest. Although the Polo R WRC pilot had to settle for second in the final test of the loop, albeit only 0.1 seconds behind Mads Ostberg, that was still enough for him to further increase his lead and he now heads back to service in Hagfors with a 10.1 second cushion.
Sebastien Loeb meanwhile is 'best of the rest' in his Citroen DS3 WRC car. Loeb was third in the first two tests today, before completing the loop with the fourth best time in Vargasen.
Latvala is next up and currently only 0.8 seconds off Loeb, having been second in SS2, fourth in SS3 and third in SS4.
Further back, Pontus Tidemand – Henning Solberg's stepson – leads the Ford Fiesta RS WRC charge in a very credible fourth. The youngster, who competed in the WRC Academy last season, and who is competing in his first WRC event in a World Rally Car, surprised by setting the fourth best time in qualifying on Thursday and he was again quick this morning. Indeed he was fourth in SS2, fifth in SS3 and seventh in SS4 clearly marking himself out as a star of the future.
Qatar M-Sport WRT duo Evgeny Novikov and Mads Ostberg lie fifth and sixth respectively, although the latter would have been right up and in contention for the victory, but for a 30-second time penalty. Ostberg had overheating problems in SS2 and while he made repairs before the next test, he was 3 minutes late to the SS3 time control and that has cost the Norwegian dear.
"It was a difficult morning. Quite early on the first stage [SS2] I had alarms on the dash and we were losing water – first I lost the water pressure and then the temperature increased so we had to slow down quite a lot," Ostberg explained.
"After the stage we had to stop and try to find the problem. We found it, but we couldn't fix it properly, so it was still leaking a bit. We managed to get through, but then we had even more bad luck on the second stage [SS3] when the padding from behind my seat fell between my feet so I had to play football and drive at the same time almost all the way through the stage!
"OK, we set some good times so the pace is definitely there. It's just very disappointing and now we need to fight as hard as we can to make sure we get a good position back in the end."
"The stages were very slippery this morning," Novikov added. "On the first stage [SS2] we took it easy to see how much grip we had to work with. Then I made a small mistake at the start of the second [SS3] one but it wasn't a big drama. I hope this afternoon will be easier for us because, running so early in the order, the first pass was very difficult. The lines on the exits of the corners are not so clean and we are the first car on the road to really use the snow banks so it was not as wide as it could be!"
Behind, Juho Hanninen is seventh, followed by Dani Sordo, Thierry Neuville and Henning Solberg in positions 8 through to 10.