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Rovanpera rises to the challenge.

Harri Rovanpera leads the way after the second leg of Rally Sweden, having absorbed continuous pressure from the Mitsubishi's of Makinen and Radstrom since taking the lead from Carlos Sainz, when he stalled, on SS9.

Four drivers fought for the lead today with Sainz, Rovanpera, Radstrom and Makinen rarely separated by more than 30 seconds, however it would be Rovanpera who fought through during the early afternoon to grab a small advantage at the top of the timesheets.

Conditions were virtually perfect for the drivers, thanks to clear blue skies and high snow banks.

Rovanpera had started the day for in second overall but during the opening two stages the Peugeot driver clawed back enough time from overnight leader Carlos Sainz to move to within three tenths of a second of the top position.

The Finn then claimed it for himself on SS9 when he capitalised on the Spanish drivers error, then went on to increase his lead further in SS10.

''Everything's gone really well today,” confirmed Rovanpera. “I'm still learning more about this car on every stage, although I'm getting closer to my limits with it. But sometimes, I arrive at corners and realise I could have braked 10 metres earlier. It will still be a close fight tomorrow, because Carlos and Thomas (Radström) aren't going to give up and Tommi (Mäkinen) is coming up quickly.''

Didier Auriol, in the only other remaining factory 206, continued to struggle with bronchitis and soon slipped from his overnight fourth position during the morning. He recovered well during the afternoon however, and would end the second leg in sixth position, but almost 1min 30secs off his teammate.

Auriol's only mechanical concern today was a puncture on SS11, but Michelin's ATS mousse system was enough to prevent serious time loss for the 1994 World champion.

Mitsubishi's Tommi Makinen started the day in fifth position, 35 seconds adrift of the lead, but soon began his charge up the leaderboard and within three stages had powered into second, just eight seconds adrift of rally leader Rovanpera.

Tommi momentarily dropped back to third after hitting a couple of snowbanks in stage 10, however the three-times winner of the Swedish Rally set fastest time in stage 11 to move back in second position, just seven seconds adrift of Rovanpera.



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