The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crews of Kristian Sohlberg and Kaj Lindstrom and Gilles and Herve Panizzi both completed the longest stage of the rally, the gigantic 52.57 kilometre run through Granberget, in 12th and 18th positions respectively.

This popular stage was blisteringly quick and spectators pour into it in their thousands, lighting fires to keep warm in the frozen forests.

Markko Martin set the pace, the Focus driver nine seconds quicker than reigning world champion Petter Solberg and the Estonian now takes over the lead of the event after Marcus Gronholm dropped nearly a minute with power steering problems.

Sebastien Loeb has also moved up the leaderboard from fourth to second position, ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz in the second Xsara and with the average top speed of 127.23 kph, action was fast and furious.

Panizzi continues to have gearbox woes and the Frenchman arrived back in service with similar problems, although this time with fourth gear.

"This was our second gearbox today and now the team is putting the first one back in the car," commented Gilles. "The first one has a problem with fifth gear, but I think it is better that we have four straight gears, rather than first, second, third and fifth. The team has also raised the rev levels, so I don't think we will have such a big disadvantage at top speed."

Team-mate Kristian Sohlberg had his first clean run of the day and the 26-year-old Finn was 12th quickest in the Lancer WRC04. "The car was absolutely fine and that stage was perfect for us; no problems at all," he said.

After service, the crews return to Granberget for the second passage of the stage.

 

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