Ford Abu Dhabi WRT number one Mikko Hirvonen almost doubled his lead on Rally Sweden this morning as the opening round in the 2011 World Rally Championship heads for its conclusion.

Hirvonen began the day just 7.4 seconds up on Mads Ostberg, with Petter Solberg, Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier also in touch. Indeed with the top five covered by 15.8 seconds, the stage looked set for a nailing biting finale.

However, Hirvonen had other ideas and promptly set the pace in all three tests this morning to head to back to service in Hagfors with his cushion up to 13.7 seconds: "It was a perfect run," said the Finn, "My driving was just perfect. I try - I really try now [to win]."

Ostberg, who was second in SS17 and SS19 and third in SS18, was philosophical about losing ground: "I'm very, very happy," said the M-Sport Stobart Ford man. "I'm pushing really hard and I know Mikko is doing the same. But there is not much more I can do. If you lose time to these guys you must be aware that they are the absolutely best drivers in the world and I have the future ahead of me."

Petter Solberg meanwhile remains third, but he is now 30.5 seconds off the lead having struggled with a front damper issue: "The car is very difficult to handle," 'Hollywood' remarked after SS19, "It has a life of its own."

Further back Sebastien Ogier has moved up to fourth and ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, despite picking up a puncture towards the end of the opening test. Latvala lost out after hitting a snow bank in that same stage and also had intercom issues in Rammen 1.

Of the rest, Sebastien Loeb is a lonely sixth after his woes on day one and the Frenchman is just pacing himself to the end: "We had a little bit of snow dust [in the last test] but that wasn't a big problem. We will just go to the finish now - no pushing," he confirmed.

Per-Gunnar Andersson and Kimi Raikkonen are seventh and eighth, the former continuing his fightback and overhauling 'the ice-man' in Torntorp 1. Khalid Al-Qassimi and Matt Wilson complete the top ten, split by just 0.4 seconds, both having had a less than perfect morning. Al-Qassimi hit a snowbank, while Wilson picked up a 10 second penalty for a jump-start.

In the Production Car World Rally Championship, Martin Semerad is still comfortably on course for the class victory, as he has been since Anders Grondal retired in SS12 on Saturday. Semerad lies over 5 minutes up on Yuriy Protasov, with Nicolas Fuchs third.

The action now continues at 12.09 hours, with a repeat-run through the 19.21 km Torntorp test [SS20]. It is then on to Rammen [SS21] at 13.31 hours, before the concluding Power Stage [SS22], which will be broadcast live around the world and which will award bonus points to the three quickest drivers, starts at 15.08 hours [all times local].

Rally Sweden: Overall standings after Stage 19 (Top 10):

1. Mikko HirvonenFord Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC2hours 59mins 02.7secs M
2. Mads OstbergM-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 13.7secs M
3. Petter SolbergPSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC+00mins 30.5secs A1
4. Sebastien OgierCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC+00mins 39.2secs M
5. Jari-Matti LatvalaFord Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 51.6secs M
6. Sebastien LoebCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC+02mins 16.7secs M
7. PG AnderssonFord Fiesta RS WRC+06mins 08.8secs A1
8. Kimi RaikkonenICE 1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC+06mins 38.2secs M
9. Khalid Al-QassimiTeam Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC+09mins 34.7secs A1
10. Matt WilsonM-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+09mins 35.1secs A1


11. Patrik SandellSkoda Fabia S2000+11mins 03.2secs A2
12. Martin ProkopFord Fiesta S2000+11mins 42.5secs A2
13. Denis KuipersFERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC+12mins 39.9secs M
14. Ken BlockMonster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC+15mins 40.6secs M

PWRC standings after Stage 19 (Top 3):

1. Martin SemeradMitsubishi Lancer Evo IX3hours 19mins 00.6secs P
2. Yuriy ProtasovMitsubishi Lancer Evo X+05mins 14.6secs P
3. Nicolas FuchsMitsubishi Lancer Evo X+06mins 43.1secs P

Notable retirements:

SS8. Henning SolbergM-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Accident M
SS8. Eyvind BrynildsenSkoda Fabia S2000Mechanical A2
SS12. Anders GrondalSubaru Impreza STiEngineP

EXC. Patrik FlodinSubaru Impreza STiExcluded P

all times unofficial



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