Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier remains comfortably in the lead of Rally Sweden following Saturday morning's opening loop of four stages.
Ogier concluded day one with a 31.4 second cushion and initially he extended that advantage this morning, when he took his sixth stage win of the event in SS9, Sagen 1. However he was more cautious in the subsequent tests, going fifth fastest in SS10, third in SS11 and fourth in SS12. As a result his advantage was cut slightly, although the Polo R WRC pilot wasn't too concerned and he now heads back to Hagfors for the mid-day service with a 25.2 second cushion.
“It was a good morning,” Ogier told WRC Live
after SS12. “Everything is going perfect. We just have to keep going.”
Sebastien Loeb meanwhile was pleased to have nibbled into Ogier's lead and to have strengthened his hold on second. Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala had been split by just 1.7 seconds last night, but now the gap is 13.8 seconds.
“I am more happy than yesterday morning. We are more on the pace now,” said Loeb, who was quickest in SS11 and second fastest in SS9, SS10 and SS12.
Latvala in contrast was disappointed to have slipped back, although he was actually quickest in SS10: “I need to improve my driving,” he remarked. “There is a little bit missing. Now we can get to service though and hopefully it will improve [after lunch].”
Behind, Mads Ostberg has closed up on the final podium position in his Qatar M-Sport WRT-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC and the Norwegian is now only 1.5 seconds off Latvala.
“I feel good and think that we have had quite a good morning. Loeb is going really quickly at the moment and I don't have enough speed to catch him right now. I could start taking bigger risks, but I really don't want to do that,” Ostberg noted. “For the moment we will just make some small adjustments to the car and see if that helps. We'll change a few things with the balance and just try to push a bit more in the afternoon. We'll still fight for sure, but I also need to think carefully about how I approach this rally now. I'm happy to be taking time off Jari-Matti, but I don't want to risk coming away with no points!”
Evgeny Novikov rounds out the top-five in the second Qatar M-Sport WRT team entry, albeit 44.8 seconds back, followed by team-mates, Juho Hanninen and Thierry Neuville in sixth and seventh.
“It wasn't so easy to find a good rhythm with the car early on, but I feel as though everything is coming together a bit more now,” Hanninen stated. “We need to change the pacenotes slightly in the fast sections, but other than that there have been no real dramas. I know that there is a lot more speed in the car, I just need to find the confidence to harness it.”