Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier has taken the early lead on Rally Sweden following Friday morning's opening four stages.
Ogier, who was seventh in the short 1.90km Karlstad super special on Thursday night, went top in the first test of the day, the 14.76km Torsby 1 stage, beating team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 2.7 seconds.
Ogier was then quickest again in SS3, 2.2s up on his nearest rival, and while he had to settle for second in SS4, 1.6s off Latvala after clipping a hairpin, he set the pace again in SS5, adding another 2.9 seconds to his lead.
The two-time World Rally Champion now heads into the regroup - there is no mid-day service - with a 9.1 second advantage.
“It was okay,” Ogier told the official WRC site after SS2. “I am happy with my driving. It will be interesting to see how my time will compare.”
“Really nice conditions - good ice on the road [in SS3]. I am happy with this one,” he added.
“It was a good stage,” he continued after SS5, “just a problem on the start line because I didn't have the gear engaged, but not a big drama.”
Meanwhile, Latvala struggled a bit initially, but was happier as the loop went on: “Now it is going in the right direction,” said the Finn after SS4.
“I was not 100 per cent happy with the car [in SS2 and SS3], to be honest, but now the confidence is coming.”
Behind the Ogier-Latvala duel, Andreas Mikkelsen is third to give VW another potential clean sweep of the rostrum places, 10.5s off P2 and 2.4s up on Mads Ostberg's Citroen in fourth. Mikkelsen hit a haybale in the first test of the loop, but bounced back to set the second best time in SS3 and was then third in SS4 and fourth in SS5.
“The acceleration in the lines is terrible - so much wheelspin,” Mikkelsen noted after SS5. “I am also struggling to get the car to turn in on this type of stage. It is not good on the tight stuff, but it is fine on the fastest sections.”
Ostberg reckoned his road position was working against him: “I'm not happy with the time,” he said after going fourth in SS4, “but in the car it is going quite well. I do not know why the time is not there. I think perhaps it is best to be first on the road, so I can understand why Seb is pushing so hard. In his position I would try and do the same.”
Thierry Neuville completes the top-five for Hyundai and despite hitting a snow bank in SS4, moved ahead of Kris Meeke after the Brit spun in the same test in his DS3 WRC, losing around 20 seconds.
Further back, M-Sport duo Elfyn Evans and Ott Tanak hold seventh and eighth, split by 3 seconds, with former F1 driver Robert Kubica, Martin Prokop, Hayden Paddon, Henning Solberg and Yuriy Protasov in positions 9 through to 13.
“The morning has been a bit up and down to be honest. We weren't completely comfortable, but the feeling wasn't bad and looking at the times coming through from those behind I think we've benefitted from our road position,” said Evans.
“In some places I feel as though we're driving okay, but there's a lot of work to do in others. It's a little bit frustrating because I know that there's more to come, I just don't know how easy it will be to find it immediately.”
“I think we were quite lucky to get away with our moment in the first stage [SS2 – when we went into a snow bank and had to reverse]! After that the feeling was okay and the car was working perfectly, but for some reason the times just weren't coming,” Tanak added.
“I don't know what the conditions were like for the guys ahead, but certainly for us some of the braking points are getting really slippery. We're just trying our best and pushing as hard as we can – maybe we're pushing too hard. We just have to try our best and see what we can do this afternoon.”
In WRC2, Jari Ketomaa heads the class and is 14th overall, 15.6 seconds up on Pontus Tidemand - the surprise winner of Thursday night's SSS. Eyvind Brynildsen is third.
Rally Sweden now continues this afternoon with a repeat-run through this morning's four stages. The leg then concludes with another blast through the Karlstad SSS.
Full itinerary for event available – HERE
2015 Rally Sweden: Overall standings after Stage 5 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 36m 40.6s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +09.1s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +19.6s
4. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +22.0s
5. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +36.8s
6. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +54.0s
7. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 01.5s
8. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 04.5s
9. Robert Kubica
RK WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 09.7s
10. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 25.5s
11. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 31.4s
12. Henning Solberg
M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 33.4s
13. Yuriy Protasov
M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 50.3s
14. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta R5 +2m 09.8s
15. Pontus Tidemand
Ford Fiesta RRC +2m 25.4s
16. Michal Solowow
Synthos Cersanit RT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 29.8s
17. Eyvind Brynildsen
Ford Fiesta RRC +2m 37.1s
WRC2 standings after Stage 5 (Top 3):
1. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta R5 38m 50.4s
2. Pontus Tidemand
Ford Fiesta RRC +0m 15.6s
3. Eyvind Brynildsen
Ford Fiesta RRC +0m 27.3s
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial