Jari-Matti Latvala pulled away from Mikko Hirvonen to establish a 17-second lead in Rally Sweden after the second loop of stages.
The duo had been in a close fight all day, with Ford driver Latvala edging ahead of his former teammate Hirvonen – now in a Citroen – midway through the afternoon. There remained little to choose between them until Torsby, the fourth stage of the loop, by which time all the frontrunners were struggling with high tire wear as the lack of snow on many stages tore the studs from the rubber.
Latvala coped with that situation better, and gained 22 seconds on Hirvonen in just 19 kilometers. The performance all but guarantees Latvala the overnight lead, with just this evening's Karlstad superspecial to go today.
Hirvonen is now under pressure for second from Latvala's teammate Petter Solberg, who looked after the tires early in the afternoon so he could push hard later, winning SS9 as a result. Solberg was also able to pass Mads Ostberg (Adapta Ford), as the early leader struggled with brake issues this afternoon and a puzzling lack of speed. The two Norwegians are now 11 seconds apart.
With Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) losing two minutes with a trip off the road and Dani Sordo parking his Mini with a technical problem on SS8, Evgeny Novikov now holds fifth for M-Sport Ford. Loeb has already recovered from 11th to seventh.
Leading positions after SS9:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford 1h22m16.8s
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 17.2s
3. Petter Solberg Ford + 20.0s
4. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 31.6s
5. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford + 1m11.5s
6. Henning Solberg Go Fast Ford + 1m46.8s
7. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 2m09.7s
8. Patrik Sandell Mini + 2m16.3s
9. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 2m24.6s
10. Eyvind Brynildsen Adapta Ford + 2m56.1s