This test follows the same route as this morning. It starts on a wide road alongside Lake Skarsjon before turning onto a forest road. The final few kilometres pass through an extremely narrow tree-lined section. Generally it’s narrow with plenty of stones and tree stumps to trap the unwary. But it’s fast and full of crests - like Finland in the snow.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Ogier rattled off another stage win to extend his lead to 27.6sec, but the real winner in Fredriksberg was Mads Ostberg, whose third fastest time was sufficient to promote him into third overall ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala.
Ostberg finished 5.9sec behind the flying Ogier, but the Norwegian pilot still had an eye on today’s final couple of stages.
“I was nearly six seconds faster than Latvala at the last split so I slowed a little to take care of the tyres for the next stage,” explained the Ford Fiesta RS driver, who is 3.1sec clear of his rival.
Latvala could only set fifth fastest time in his Polo R and the 27-year-old Finn cut a demoralised figure at the stop line.
“Very difficult conditions with very narrow ruts,” he said. “I did not feel comfortable at all with the car.” Asked what he could do, Latvala simply replied: “I don’t know.”
Despite tricky conditions for the studded tyres as gravel showed through the snow and ice, Ogier was in a league of his own. The Frenchman was already 2.8sec faster than anyone else at the opening split time after just 4.5km, and controled his pace through the rest of the stage.
“I had good splits and backed off a little at the end. It’s a really good feeling, but we have to make it to the end,” he said.
Sandwiched between Ogier and Ostberg in the stage rankings was Sebastien Loeb, who finished 2.9sec behind his fellow countryman. Loeb’s Citroen DS3 showed a few battle scars on the front bumper, but the impact hadn’t made any impression on him.
“I don’t know what I hit, maybe it was a bit of a snow bank. I had understeer in the gravel and they were difficult conditions,” he said.
Evgeny Novikov was fourth fastest in his Fiesta RS, while behind Latvala in sixth was Thierry Neuville, the Belgian feeling more comfortable after raising the ride height of his similar car in service.
Jari Ketomaa and Khalid Al Qassimi both survived tussles with a snowbank, while Jarkko Nikara lost 10 seconds in his MINI John Cooper Works after overshooting the final corner.
Ford Fiesta RRC driver Yazeed Al Rajhi continued his strong challenge for the lead of the WRC 2 category. Fastest time was the Saudi Arabian’s fifth win of the day and he narrowed the gap to class leader Anders Grondal to just 5.1sec. Sepp Wiegand remains third in a Skoda Fabia S2000, 2min 54.2sec behind Grondal, with Ukraine’s Yuri Protasov still fourth.