SS11, Rammen (22.76 kilometres)
This is Saturday’s longest stage and a fans’ favourite. It is also one of the quickest with wide roads and several flat-out straights. Early in the test the road skirts the edge of Lake Holmsjon and follows the shores of another lake later in the stage. Four uphill open hairpins near the midpoint calm the pace.
SS12, Hagfors Sprint (1.87 kilometres)
The shortest stage of the weekend is based at a former rallycross circuit on the edge of Hagfors. It is twisty and technical and offers great spectating. With little room to throw the car around, it rewards tidy driving. It is the last of a loop of four tough tests so tyres may be missing studs and grip could be at a premium.
How the action unfolded:
Crews tackled the 22km Rammen and the short Hagford Sprint in quick succession before heading to their team bases for the 30-minute midpoint service.
Polo R driver Ogier was fastest on just the opening stage today, as his mission shifted from taking the lead to protecting it. “Now’s not the time to push anymore - we just try to control,” he said after SS11. Ogier felt he needed to work on improving his stage starts but reckoned the rest of his morning had been almost perfect.
Citroen DS3 driver Loeb left for the short drive to service in second place, and a little more secure in the position after a stage win on SS11 pulled him 5.9sec ahead of the chasing Latvala.
“It was okay but I’m on my limit, for sure,” said Loeb. “The grip on SS11 was better than we had yesterday and the car is going well so I can push harder. I made a little mistake on an icy hairpin on the short stage but apart from that no problems.”
Latvala made a big play for Loeb’s position on SS10, but the Polo R driver couldn’t touch the Frenchman’s pace on SS11. “The car is fine but I need to improve my driving because I was too cautious under braking,” Latvala explained. “The problem I think is that I need to drive this car more like a front-wheel drive, at the moment I’m thinking more about the rear.”
As well as his driving, Latvala had to think about Fiesta RS pilot Mads Ostberg, who rounded off the morning loop just 1.5sec behind in fourth.
Ostberg began the day with ambitious plans to reel-in both Latvala and Loeb and was satisfied with his progress so far. “The guys ahead are not making it easy but we carry on and try to catch them,” he said. “We have done exactly what we wanted but Sebastien has increased his speed so it’s difficult. It was supposed to be the other way around! I don’t want to test the limit, so we’ll carry on as we are now.”
Ostberg heads a group of six Ford Fiesta RS drivers in the top ten. Evgeny Novikov is 44sec behind in fifth, with Juho Hanninen 58sec further back in sixth. Thierry Neuville is less than nine seconds behind Hanninen in seventh.
Henning Solberg, Martin Prokop and Citroen DS3 driver Dani Sordo round off the top-10.
Anders Grondal retained his overnight lead in the WRC 2 category, but second-placed Yazeed Al Rajhi was the man on form this morning.
Grondal restarted with a 32.6sec advantage in his Subaru Impreza, but the Saudi Arabian driver won three of the four stages in his Ford Fiesta RRC to reduce the gap to 17.6sec. Grondal opted for used tyres, preferring to save his new rubber for later.
Championship leader Sepp Wiegand remains third in a Skoda Fabia S2000, 2min 34.4sec behind Grondal, with Ukraine’s Yuri Protasov still fourth.