09 Feb 08
Jari-Matti Latvala started Saturday’s competition with a 48.2sec lead over his Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen. Fourth through the first test - Horssjön - allowed Latvala to extend his lead by almost five seconds and the 22-year-old Finn pulled out another nine seconds in the following 20.92km Hagfors test.
Hirvonen, fifth and seventh on the opening two special stages, claimed back 8.2sec through the 24.63km Vargåsen and the pair arrived at the remote service zone in Hagfors separated by 53.9sec.
"It was difficult being first on the road through the opening stage because there was a lot of slush for the first 3km and we did a lot of moving from snowbank to snowbank," said Latvala. "Then it changed to gravel and while the grip was great, the gravel wasn't good for the tyre studs. On the last stage I hit a stone with the front right wheel about 1.5km from the start and was lucky not to puncture. Malcolm Wilson (team director) told me this morning to be sensible. My heart was beating hard on the way to the first stage but I feel relaxed now. I just need some food and some coffee and then on we go!"
Hirvonen said: "My plan was to try to catch Jari-Matti but I didn't have a good feeling on the first two stages. I found a better rhythm on the final test and the drivers behind me were closing, so I had to push hard to take some time back. My position feels safe and I'm thinking about those eight points for finishing second, so I don't want to take risks. We changed the programme in the car's centre differential to last year's Swedish Rally settings and I feel more confident that it won't be as sideways."