Volkswagen Motorsport has retained the lead of Rally Sweden but tonight it is Jari-Matti Latvala who takes the top spot in the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen is however hot on his heels in second, a mere 3.6 seconds adrift in the sister Polo R WRC. Mads Østberg, driving a Citroën DS3 WRC, holds third with one day remaining.
Today’s route took in two identical loops of four stages, all in Sweden, before returning to Karlstad for the final run around the popular super special stage. Reigning World Champion Sébastien Ogier started the day in control of the field, the Frenchman with 5.8 seconds in hand to Mikkelsen. However, in the opening stage he went off the road in a slow corner and got stuck in a snow bank losing him four and a half minutes and 20 positions. He has nevertheless powered back up the leaderboard into ninth position this evening with a string of fastest times.
Latvala, at the head of the field, has run without problems but has been under intense pressure from Mikkelsen. The battling team-mates are neck and neck and, despite Mikkelsen having an excursion into a ditch this morning, the fight for victory tomorrow afternoon looks set to rage on. Mads Østberg has climbed from sixth to third this evening with a trouble-free day and he overnights with 19.7 seconds in hand to fourth-placed Mikko Hirvonen. Tanak, in fifth, has made a few minor mistakes today but the Estonian remains in a close battle with Hirvonen, just six seconds separating them. Kris Meeke – in his first snow rally – is sixth and WRC returnee Henning Solberg has climbed into seventh. Sweden’s only world rally car driver, Pontus Tidemand, is chasing hard and the reigning FIA Junior WRC Champion is just 1.4 seconds further adrift. Elfyn Evans rounds off the top 10, sitting just 3.4 seconds behind Ogier. The disappointing retirements of the day included the Hyundai i20s of Thierry Neuville and Juho Hänninen, the former with suspension damage and latter taking a wheel off. Robert Kubica has also plummeted down the leaderboard after getting stuck in a snow bank.