Speaking at the service area after SS14 Tommi Makinen confessed his surprise at the speed of Rovanpera, who has extended his lead to 17.2secs over the Mitsubishi driver.

Snow, predicted by the weather experts, duly arrived this morning for the start of the final leg of the International Swedish Rally. Temperatures, hovering between minus 2 and minus 4 degrees, were milder than the last two days but a light falling of snow has added to the challenge of one of the fastest and most specialised events in the FIA World Rally Championship calendar.

The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart crews of Tommi Makinen/Risto Mannisenmaki and Thomas Radstrom/Tina Thorner have maintained their overnight second and third positions, but both have lost time to leader Harri Rovanpera.

However, being that the Finn is not registered by Peugeot for this event, Mitsubishi is currently on course to claim the maximum 16 points in the all-important Manufacturers' Championship.

"I was a little bit surprised at Harri's speed, especially being first car on the road", said Makinen. "But he chose a longer stud than us and perhaps that was better, but we have no other particular reason for the difference. We really want to win and it's full pedal now!"

Adding to his comments, Thomas - who is now in the thick of a battle with Ford's Carlos Sainz - said: "We are working hard, but it's difficult. Harri drove very well and we have to try again and look to keep Carlos behind us. We're not fighting with Tommi".

The Mitsubishi Carisma GT crew of Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets were hampered in these stages with a centre differential problem. "It was not working efficiently causing the car to be a little unstable under braking, and also understeering", commented Freddy. The team is now changing the gearbox and centre differential in near arctic conditions in the service park.

The crews now return to the same two stages, both of which will have developed a noticeably cleaner line for the next two stages of the rally.