Mikko Hirvonen leads Mads Ostberg by 7.4 seconds at the end of day two of Rally Sweden, as the top five remained within 15.8sec after tonight's superspecial.
The leading quintet were closely matched around the short Karlstad course that concluded leg two, although fifth-placed Sebastien Ogier (Citroen) lost a little ground with a time 2sec slower than stage winner Petter Solberg (Solberg Citroen).
As the leg three running order was set after the final full-length stage, there was no opportunity for any tactical slowing on the superspecial, but with the leaders so tightly packed, there was still a chance that positions could have changed hands.
In the event, Ford driver Hirvonen only lost 0.1sec of his lead over Stobart Ford's Ostberg. Solberg's stage win closed him to within 8.9sec of Hirvonen, with Jari-Matti Latvala 10.9sec off the lead in the second works Ford and Ogier 15.8sec behind Hirvonen.
Sebastien Loeb appears stuck in sixth place with a big gap ahead of the Citroen number one, while Kimi Raikkonen's mission for Sunday will be to resist P-G Andersson for seventh, with 25sec between them at present after Raikkonen's excellent end to leg two and Andersson's power steering failure.
Patrik Sandell, Matthew Wilson and Khalid Al Qassimi are battling for the final points positions.
In the Production class, Martin Semerad leads by nearly five minutes after Anders Grondal suffered an engine failure on a road section today and Patrik Flodin was excluded before the start of the leg for a minor technical infringement.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 2h34m56.1s
2. Mads Ostberg Ford + 7.4s
3. Petter Solberg Citroen + 8.9s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 10.9s
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 15.8s
6. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 1m42.1s
7. Kimi Raikkonen Ford + 5m05.5s
8. P-G Andersson Ford + 5m30.7s
9. Patrik Sandell Skoda + 7m44.8s
10. Matthew Wilson Ford + 7m46.2s