Mikko Hirvonen has grabbed the Rally Sweden lead from Mads Ostberg, though the Stobart Ford driver is still firmly in the fight for victory, just 0.3sec behind.
Works Ford man Hirvonen immediately started trimming Ostberg's 14.8sec overnight lead when this morning's four-stage loop got under way, and took the lead on Varmullsasen, the last stage before service. But with being first onto the stages less of a penalty amid today's lighter snow levels, Hirvonen does not expect to shake Ostberg off.
"He's driving well, definitely – he hasn't given up," said the new leader.
Ostberg said his pace had held up better than he expected given that he is first on the road today.
"I thought I would lose more after what I saw on the roads, because there's a lot of snow and not much ice," he said. "I'm feeling quite confident even though I know I will lose time."
A 10sec penalty for checking into a time control late slightly hampered SS9 and SS11 winner Petter Solberg's chase of the leaders, though the Solberg Citroen remains third, keeping Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) at bay, and has closed to within half a minute of Hirvonen. Solberg plans to appeal the penalty, blaming his late arrival on traffic.
The two works Citroens are now fifth and sixth, Sebastien Ogier and Sebastien Loeb benefiting from Henning Solberg rolling his Stobart Ford out of fifth place early on this morning's opener, Lesjofors.
Loeb won that stage, his first fastest time of the weekend, but then lost another half-minute to a puncture on SS10 Fredriksberg.
"I thought it was the rear transmission that was broken, but it's a puncture," said Loeb. "I don't know why. Yesterday we were maybe a bit hard with the [tire] pressure, but not today. Maybe I touched a little snow bank."
The recovering P-G Andersson was quickest on Fredriksberg and has now charged back to seventh after his crash and puncture yesterday.
With Eyvind Brynildsen's Skoda suffering an engine failure, Patrik Sandell is now the only giant-killing S2000 underdog in the top 10. He holds eighth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's Ice 1 Citroen.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 1h54m57.5s
2. Mads Ostberg Ford + 0.3s
3. Petter Solberg Citroen + 31.0s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 44.3s
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 1m10.0s
6. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 2m43.6s
7. P-G Andersson Ford + 4m11.0s
8. Patrik Sandell Skoda + 4m19.8s
9. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen + 5m22.4s
10. Khalid Al Qassimi Ford + 7m03.7s