Team-mate Toni Gardemeister struggled to gain confidence in his car today and he rolled out of the event in SS11. Former world champion Stig Blomqvist occupies 17th, despite running second on the road today.
Kenneth Eriksson noted: ''The stage time was a little bit surprising but I pushed hard on that stage - I even went off slightly at one point. The change of settings on the centre diff has made the car more stable in the long corners and more predictable. I'm enjoying myself now but I'm not really thinking about positions. I'm taking it one stage at a time.''
The Mitsubishi Lancer WRCs of Alister McRae, Jani Paasonen and Francois Delecour have had no difficulties today. Paasonen's charge towards a points finish faltered though when the Finn spun in SS6 and dropped from fourth to sixth, and then in SS7 he clipped a rock and broke a wheel. The resulting time loss dropped him to 18th overall, with little chance of even a point.
Team-mate Alister McRae benefited from Paasonen's misfortune, and the problems encountered by his own brother Colin. After moving past Sebastian Lindholm and Juha Kankkunen this morning, the Scot arrived back at final service this evening in eighth overall. Francois Delecour, meanwhile, continues to experiment with set-ups on his Lancer but the Frenchman still lies outside the top 20 after his lengthy spell in a snow bank yesterday.
Jani Paasonen said: ''I did a spin at a junction on this morning's first stage. I pulled the handbrake but I forgot to use the clutch and the car just spun and stalled. Then in SS7 there was a rock on the inside of a corner and it broke the wheel. We had about half of the stage still to go so I stopped, 'phoned the team and checked if it was okay to continue. We got to the end of the stage and changed the wheel, but we'd lost a lot of time. I'm disappointed, because I really wanted to get into the points.''
His team-mate Alister McRae stated: ''I'm pushing hard and I've got good confidence in the car now. We've changed a few settings and it's certainly better in the twisty stuff than it was at the start - although there's still some work to do. I'm thinking about softening the suspension a little because the ruts and bumps are getting worse.''
Citroen's Thomas Radstrom picked up road penalties at first service this morning, because the Citroen
mechanics had to change his Xsara's turbo and that wasn't possible within the allotted ten minutes. His and Sebastien Loeb's cars have run reliably thereafter, though. Loeb's Xsara has been handling to its drivers satisfaction after a complete transmission change yesterday evening.
Radstrom started today with little to gain but scratch times, but the Swede ended up losing even more seconds instead. In SS7 he clipped the same rock that claimed Colin McRae and Jani Paasonen, breaking both a wheel and a brake disc. The resulting damage meant that he had no rear brakes for SS8. Sebastien Loeb
also clipped the rock but the young Frenchman survived to set third fastest time on the stage. Despite losing more time when he scooped snow into the front of the car in SS9, he has moved into the top 20 today.
Sebastien Loeb said: ''I went a bit too quickly into a right-hand corner in SS9 and then we went wide for the next left-hander. We clipped the snow bank and got snow into the front so we had to stop and clear it out to prevent overheating.''
Subaru's Petter Solberg
was forced to retire the sole remaining Impreza on this morning's first stage when the car's engine lapsed onto two cylinders and it lost oil pressure.