A repeat of this morning’s opening stage, the route is unchanged from 2012. It starts on a narrow, twisty section through woodland, then opens out near the midpoint and gets faster. It flicks back and forth between open and twisty all the way. The surface is tricky, with gravel appearing through the snow and ruts forming after the first pass.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Ogier increased his lead by winning the second pass through Lesjofors. The Volkswagen Polo R driver was quickest by 3.9sec to extend his lead to an increasingly comfortable 16.8sec.
“Another really good stage. I’m really happy with my driving and the car is perfect at the moment,” said the unflappable Frenchman.
Mads Ostberg was second fastest, the Norwegian further boosted by having his 30sec road penalty for checking in late at the start of stage three reduced by 10sec. That promoted him from sixth to fourth, the Fiesta RS pilot 33.9sec from the lead.
“I made a tyre choice which was a bit risky – I took just one spare. I fear it will be a bit hard for the remaining stages this afternoon. But that time wasn’t so bad and I took time from Latvala and Loeb,” explained Ostberg.
Latvala and Loeb were third and fourth, and the 0.9sec gap between them was sufficient for the Finn to displace the Frenchman from second overall. Just one-tenth of a second separates the warring duo.
“We start to have gravel coming through,” said Loeb. “The grip in the lines is good on gravel, but when you go out of the lines you lose the car completely.”
Evgeny Novikov was fifth in a Fiesta RS, moving ahead of the similar car of Pontus Tidemand. The young Swede admitted he could drive faster but warned: “I should not try to do that, otherwise I will not be here!”
Both Michal Kosciuszko and Khalid Al Qassimi buried their cars deep into the snow. Kosciuszko, who had a new gearbox fitted to his MINI John Cooper Works in service, dropped about five minutes while the Abu Dhabi pilot lost four.
“I wish I was at home,” said the Citroen DS3 driver, who lost seven minutes after going off in the same test this morning.
Eyvind Brynildsen’s impressive recovery in the WRC 2 category came to a sudden end at the pre-stage service when team engineers discovered a crack in his Ford Fiesta’s engine block and retired the car.