Mikko Hirvonen is on the brink of victory in Rally Sweden, with Sebastien Loeb having declared he will settle for second after losing more time to the Finn this morning.
The pair started day three 16 seconds apart, and Loeb was only able to trim 0.2sec from Hirvonen's advantage on the Rammen stage. When the Citroen driver then had several wild moments on Varmullsasen and lost a further 7sec to his Ford rival, Loeb admitted Hirvonen would now be impossible to beat.
"I tried, I was on the limit," said Loeb. "He's doing no mistakes and he's going as fast as me. I'll try to finish second now. I've done a few mistakes, had a few moments in the stage. He's too strong here."
Hirvonen said he had given it everything this morning, and had been quite ragged himself.
"We were ahead [on the splits] at halfway but then on the last downhill section especially, it was really bad driving from me," he said after SS18. "It's very close – it's really, really flat-out all the way."
With three stages to go, Hirvonen holds a lead of 23.7sec.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) and Dani Sordo (Citroen) now seem set for third and fourth, respectively, running a minute apart and both focusing on getting to the finish.
Further problems for Mads Ostberg have taken the bite out of the only other close battle in the top 10. The Norwegian had been pushing to try and reclaim seventh from Matthew Wilson (Stobart Ford) but a brake problem on Ostberg's Adapta Subaru cost him a lot of time on this loop.
"All the way from the beginning of the stage before this one, the brakes kept going," Ostberg said at the end of Varmullsesen. "It was really strange, just in the middle of the road they weren't there. It's stupid. My bad luck will never stop."
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 2h39m13.0s
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 23.7s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 1m12.4s
4. Dani Sordo Citroen + 2m13.2s
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 3m18.0s
6. Henning Solberg Ford + 4m27.3s
7. Matthew Wilson Ford + 6m40.0s
8. Mads Ostberg Subaru + 8m20.5s
9. Petter Solberg Citroen + 9m25.8s
10. P-G Andersson Skoda + 10m18.9s