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LIVE COMMENTARY: RALLY SWEDEN 2014 - RALLY SWEDEN 2014
   GO TO LIVE INDEX ALL TIMES GMT  
As it happened: Rally Sweden 2014
By Matt Beer, David Evans and Scott Mitchell
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
Thu 09:44 Good morning and welcome to AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live's coverage of Rally Sweden 2014.

Thu 09:45 It's three weeks since Robert Kubica and Bryan Bouffier gave the World Rally Championship just the start to 2014 it needed with their thrilling day one drives in Monte Carlo, before world champion Sebastien Ogier produced one of his finest rallies yet to come back from ninth to a dominant win.

Thu 09:50 We've already had stage one, with the traditional Karlstad superspecial taking place on the evening before the main event as usual. Andreas Mikkelsen was fastest, so Volkswagen's number three is our current leader.

Sweden SS1 report

Thu 09:50 But what usually happens in Sweden is that the overnight superspecial order lasts about one kilometre into the first proper stage of the day, which is kicking off in just under five minutes.

LakeThu 09:54 While it might be warmer than expected – actually, when did zero become warm? Let's make that less cold than expected... - while it might be less cold than expected, the lake in Karlstad's still frozen.

And here's a picture to prove it.

There used to be a very nice restaurant here called the boat (largely because it was a boat) and it sat at the side of the lake. Either it's sailed away or it's sunk. Will investigate and get back to you...

Thu 10:01 Our world champion and points leader Ogier completes SS2 in a time of 4m38.1s.

He finds enough snow to make the stage pretty slippery and is only moderately satisfied with his drive, feeling he could've pushed harder.

Thu 10:02 Kris Meeke is next through. He promised a "no risk" approach pre-rally, then had an accident on yesterday's shakedown. After that, he reiterated he definitely, definitely would be taking a no risk approach...

Thu 10:03 Meeke is 8.5s down on Ogier but really not fussed about that. Having never done a snow rally at all before, he says he's just here to learn and enjoy himself.

Thu 10:09 Jari-Matti Latvala is 2.7s down on Ogier, Mads Ostberg 4.4s down.

Elfyn Evans is another man with a huge amount to learn. He's 16s off current pacesetter Ogier and had a half-spin, but is happy with his start.

Thu 10:10 Mikkelsen loses his overnight lead - he's 3s slower than Ogier and was only 0.8s ahead after his superspecial win.

Thu 10:12 A couple of key facts to be aware of today:

* Cars are running in championship order for day one, so we get Monte winner Ogier through first and round one retirees like Robert Kubica and Thierry Neuville are further back on the start list.

* It's not very snowy. Organisers have been watering the stages during the week to try to ensure a sufficient ice base for the studded tyres, but this isn't the prettiest Rally Sweden you'll ever see.

Thu 10:14 Mikko Hirvonen is 6s off Ogier's pace, but says he was deliberately muted after crashing on this stage a year ago.

"I'm just happy I'm here. Last year it lasted about one kilometre. I've done the first stage, let's move on."

Thu 10:14 Robert Kubica completes the stage 9s down on pacesetter Ogier.

"It was OK. Quite slippery and not an easy stage to start off, but I think for the whole rally we'll have to really take care. This is my first time in these conditions and they're changing the whole time."

Thu 10:15 Looks like our first incident might be Martin Prokop going off. The Czech driver is stopped on the stage.

Thu 10:16 Back to Kubica - he might be taking it gently right now, but a man who knows a lot about going fast on snow in a rally car says the ex-Formula 1 man definitely has what it takes.

Marcus Gronholm sat alongside Kubica in testing last week, then told AUTOSPORT all about it... and he was very, very impressed:

Gronholm's verdict on Kubica's rallying potential

Thu 10:17 It's currently an all-VW top three with Ogier leading Mikkelsen and Latvala.

The Hyundais of Neuville and Juho Hanninen are due through next.

Thu 10:19 Good news for Neuville: he's got further than he did on his Hyundai debut in Monte Carlo...

He's 7s slower than Ogier, but had to dodge around Prokop.

"It cost me a little bit of time, but no more than 2-3s. The spectators slowed me down, which was good because it was quite a narrow place where he was in the ditch."

Neuville reports a bit of wheelspin and a not-quite-perfect gearchange. Something to add to Hyundai's jobs list in its first year back in the WRC.

Thu 10:19 Prokop has got out of the ditch and made it to the end of the stage. Sounds like he wanted a bit more assistance from the fans...

"There were a lot of good spectators who were helping us, but there were a lot who were just taking videos..."

Thu 10:21 Great stuff from Hanninen, only 5s off Ogier (fifth quickest on the stage so far) on his Hyundai i20 debut.

Might the former Intercontinental Rally Challenge, Super 2000 WRC and European Rally champion be a dark horse this weekend...? AUTOSPORT would put a few quid on a podium for him actually.

Thu 10:22 Still another six World Rally Cars to come through - great entry as usual in Sweden. Rising stars Craig Breen and Pontus Tidemand among those on the stage.

Thu 10:22 A very special time from WRC returnee Ott Tanak - he's second quickest, only 2s down on Ogier! He was third quickest last night too.

Ott TanakThu 10:23 Remember this bloke hasn't been in top-level action since he lost his M-Sport Ford place at the end of 2012.

Tanak's back this year in a mixed programme of WRC and WRC2 events and has a point to prove.

Thu 10:28 Poland's Michal Solowow, a man we've seen a few times on IRC and ERC events before, comes through in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

The main interest here is that his co-driver is Maciek Baran, the man who walked out of his partnership with Kubica at the end of last year. Kubica wasn't entirely impressed with that...

Thu 10:30 Reigning Junior WRC champion Pontus Tidemand has another shot in a World Rally Car this weekend. Last year he ran as high as fourth overall in a pretty amazing performance. He's ninth quickest, 8s off Ogier.

Thu 10:31 Two WRC returnees on/in the next car through: Pirelli and Henning Solberg.

The elder one of the Solberg siblings had a spin on that stage though and "had to go back and back and back" to get going in the right direction again.

Thu 10:32 Craig Breen is next in, but he's got troubles, with a misfire on his Fiesta.

Thu 10:35 Here are the standings after that stage:

SS2 results: 1 Ogier 4m38.1s; 2 Tanak +2.6s; 3 Latvala +2.7s; 4 Mikkelsen +3.8s; 5 Ostberg +4.4s; 6 Hanninen +5.0s.

Overall standings: 1 Ogier; 2 Mikkelsen +3.0s; 3 Tanak +4.0s; 4 Latvala +4.3s; 5 Ostberg +6.8s; 6 Hanninen +7.4s.

Meeke is 10th, Kubica 11th, Evans 13th.

Thu 10:35 Moderate WRC2 drama as Yuriy Protasov has a meeting with "a small tree". He completes the stage with only minor damage, though.

Thu 10:47 Quite a good WRC2 battle in prospect this weekend. Under-rated talent Jari Ketomaa was definitely pre-rally favourite, but right now he's less than a second ahead of Yazeed Al-Rahji.

You wouldn't normally expect a Saudi Arabian driver to fly in the snow, but Al-Rahji won WRC2 here last year and might've been among Robert Kubica's title rivals had he not then injured his back on a cross country event.

Anders Grondal did amazing things with his Group N Subaru on last night's superspecial too, but he doesn't expect to have a shot at the S2000s, R5s and RRCs when the rally gets going properly today.

Thu 10:49 If you're just joining us, main news from the first stage of the morning:

* Ogier takes the lead from superspecial pacesetter Mikkelsen
* Returnee Tanak keeps himself in an amazing third place
* Hanninen has the Hyundai in sixth
* Cautious start for Kubica in 11th.

Thu 10:58 He might have been frustrated by a misfire, but Craig Breen was far from slow on that stage - he's 12th overall, 2.4s behind Kubica and just under 5s from a top-10 spot.

JaffaThu 11:08 This event is Breen's World Rally Car debut in the WRC, and his Ford Fiesta RS WRC shows a touching tribute to the part the late Gareth 'Jaffa' Roberts, his former co-driver, played in getting the Irishman to this level.

Thu 11:09 Our next stage, Kirkener, is underway in 20 minutes. The field has crossed the border into Norway, which is where the majority of today's action takes place.

Thu 11:20 Pirelli is back in rallying's big time this weekend for the first time since Sebastien Loeb won the 2010 Rally GB.

Henning Solberg's bolted on the Italian boots for his first WRC appearance since this rally last year – and the Norwegian could be onto a good thing.

Unlike DMACKs and Michelins, Pirelli's studs are moulded into the tyre early in the production process (they are drilled and glued into DMACKs and Michelins) which should mean a better level of stud retention.

That could become a hot topic as the rally goes on. Without much snow at the moment and with the ice likely to be broken on the first runs through stages, there will be a lot of gravel on the roads when stages are repeated, and that's not great news for snow tyres and their studs.

That was why a lot of frontrunners barely bothered with yesterday's shakedown, as they were already frantically saving tyres for the rally weekend.

SnowploughThu 11:23 Here's some evidence of how lacking in snow Karlstad is. This snowplough is currently the area's most pointless vehicle.

Thu 11:24 The imminent SS3 Kirkener is another short one, just seven kilometres like our earlier run through Torsby. It's followed immediately by the 16km of Finnskogen.

Thu 11:28 When Petter Solberg was in the WRC, Rally Sweden's annual dip into Norway meant the field went right past his house.

Now he's focused on rallycross, but big brother Henning is currently 15th early on his comeback rally.

The Norwegian crowd's eyes are going to be on home heroes Mikkelsen and Ostberg, currently second and fifth.

VW hasn't put much pressure on Mikkelsen so far, but he knows this event is his best chance yet for a first WRC podium, now he has nearly a year of experience in the Polo under his belt. He's just three seconds behind rally leader and team-mate/team leader Ogier.

Thu 11:30 Ogier is onto the stage, so we're back underway after that pause to cross the border.

Thu 11:37 Ogier completes without problems. He can't quite work out if being first on the road on the disappearing ice is a good or bad thing.

"It's OK, quite soft ground - the ice is not really hard. So it's difficult for me to estimate if my position is an advantage or a disadvantage.

"We'll try to push because we expect it to be difficult for the first car on the road."

5m38.4s is his time.

Thu 11:39 Meeke is 12s down on Ogier, but not unhappy about that. The snow rally rookie was 10th overall after SS2.

"It's so easy to make a mistake, and it's changed a lot since the recce. It's very, very white. You come through an open field and it's hard to tell where the road is.

"But I'm really, really enjoying it."

Thu 11:40 Oh dear, Latvala is 6.6s slower than Ogier and is very, very unhappy:

"The driving is bad. I don't have an explanation. I don't like the gearbox in the car, it's not changing gear very well.

"But I cannot explain the times - Sebastien had an incredible time."

Thu 11:41 Latvala came into this stage just behind Tanak in fourth place, ahead of Ostberg and Hanninen.

Thu 11:43 Ostberg is next up. Three years ago, this rally was the making of his WRC career, as after a few seasons of underdog promise in a private Subaru, he led in Sweden on his debut for M-Sport Ford's satellite Stobart squad, and finished second.

Since then, he's been tipped for a Sweden win every year, but it's yet to come.

He loses 11s to Ogier and 4s to Latvala on that stage, and admits his confidence isn't great in only his second WRC rally for Citroen.

Thu 11:46 After another wise and careful run from Elfyn Evans, here's Mikkelsen, who is 6s off Ogier. That'll bring Ogier's lead up to about 9s overall.

"This stage was not easy - very Mickey Mouse," says Mikkelsen. "Sometimes I struggled a bit with changing gear because it's wheelspinning so much.

"But I'm happy enough with my start."

Thu 11:48 With everyone falling away from Ogier at the moment, the man to watch is going to be Tanak now. He's 12th on the road and was 4s behind Ogier after SS2.

Thu 11:48 Our latest puzzled rally driver is Hirvonen, who is fourth quickest.

"I thought it was a good drive, but the boys in front are going really, really fast," he muses.

Thu 11:54 A smooth run for a careful Kubica, who is 16s off Ogier's best time, and sixth quickest of those through so far. He's lost 4s to Meeke, who he is chasing for 10th.

Thu 12:02 Neuville is the faster of the Hyundais on that stage, which brings him right onto team-mate Hanninen's tail in a battle for what is going to be sixth place.

Thu 12:02 Tanak loses time to the VWs, he's fourth quickest and drops 12s behind Ogier in the overall standings. That means he falls to fourth overall behind Latvala.

Thu 12:03 Just got Tidemand, Solberg and Breen to come to round off our WRC field, but Ogier is already on the startline of Finnskogen poised to commence the next stage.

Thu 12:05 Remember Ogier wasn't sure if being first on the road was good or bad?

The consensus down the field is that it's definitely GOOD for him, bad for everyone else.

There is less and less ice/snow, more and more mud on the road as those further down the startlist come through.

Thu 12:06 "The road is getting slower and slower and slower and slower," Henning Solberg confirms.

Thu 12:08 Breen completes 12th quickest. The misfire seems to have gone and he's happy despite road conditions being a bit of an adventure, or as he puts it: "Jesus, there's a lot going on in there."

Thu 12:10 SS3 times:

1 Ogier (VW) 5m38.4s
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.7s
3 Latvala (VW) +6.6s
4 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +7.8s
5 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +8.0s
6 Ostberg (Citroen) +10.9s

Thu 12:13 Overall positions:

1 Ogier (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +8.7s
3 Latvala (VW) +10.9s
4 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +11.8s
5 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +16.1s
6 Ostberg (Citroen) +17.7
7 Hanninen (Hyundai) +21.2s
8 Neuville (Hyundai) +21.9s
9 Meeke (Citroen) +23.6s
10 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +23.9s

And Kubica, Breen and Solberg are next up in 11th, 12th and 13th.

Thu 12:15 SS3 summary:

* Ogier fastest, everyone else unhappy with road conditions worsening
* VW takes control of the top three as Tanak falls to fourth behind Latvala

Thu 12:15 Ogier has just made it to the end of SS4, but on the splits it looks like Ostberg and Latvala are set to outpace him.

Thu 12:17 Ogier wasn't unhappy with his performance on that stage at all, but quicker splits are still coming in from the drivers behind. Maybe it's the competition raising its game.

Thu 12:18 Meeke completes SS4 and is 6s down on Ogier. As Meeke keeps on saying, this is his first ever proper snow rally (though it's getting a bit short of snow...), he's taking it gently. In that context, it's a very good time.

Thu 12:19 Turns out he likes snow rallying...

"That is the most fantastic experience!" says Meeke. "It's the most beautiful experience you can have in a rally car. I feel like a child at Christmas."

Thu 12:20 Great time from Latvala, he takes nearly 5s out of Ogier and the gap is done to 6s.

The Finn was utterly miserable at the end of the last stage, but it turned out all he needed was some fast corners.

"When it's fast and flowing, it's no problem. I've got a great feeling with my driving there, it's where it's Mickey Mouse and technical that I'm struggling."

Thu 12:23 Ostberg is slower than Latvala but only 0.3s off Ogier. He still feels he could be doing a lot better with more confidence and car familiarity.

Thu 12:23 Mikkelsen is flying on the stage. His splits suggest he will close right in on team-mate Ogier for the lead.

Thu 12:24 It's a stage win for Mikkelsen, 7.1s up on Ogier, whose lead is down to 1.6s!

Thu 12:25 Unsurprisingly Mikkelsen is happy. He's not saying too much about the lead battle he's just created, though.

"I really enjoyed it. I remember being in the Super 2000 car fighting with Seb here [in 2012] and it was great fun."

Thu 12:25 Right now, top three is Ogier leading Mikkelsen by 1.6s and Latvala by 6.1s.

Tanak's yet to start the stage.

Thu 12:28 Hirvonen is a decent third quickest so far, behind only Mikkelsen and Latvala, quicker than Ogier.

Thu 12:30 Kubica is set to drop another 15s or so to the leaders. He's on a similar pace to M-Sport team-mate Elfyn Evans.

"We're driving at our own pace: slowly," says Kubica, who is determined to get to the end of this rally. He went into this stage 11th overall.

Thu 12:32 Tanak is dropping away a bit on the split times, so this is going to become an all-VW fight up front. But it's a good one - they really are fighting.

Thu 12:35 Neuville isn't over-happy with his Hyundai at present, but he's just gone 1.2s faster than team-mate Hanninen and that will swap them round in seventh and eighth places.

Hanninen's time loss is due to running a bit wide at a corner and brushing the snow bank.

"Stupid!" is his summary.

Thu 12:39 Tanak had a great end to that stage. He's 3.6s down on pacesetter Mikkelsen and does indeed lose a bit of time to the Norwegian and Latvala, but he's quicker than Ogier.

That keeps him within 8.3s of the lead.

Sorry Ott, we were a bit quick to declare it an all-VW fight weren't we? The returnee Estonian is still very firmly in the hunt.

Thu 12:42 Potential problems for Breen it seems, he's lost 25s at the first split.

Thu 12:44 Amazing time for Henning Solberg, who's second quickest, just 1.9s off Mikkelsen. That should thrust him into the top 10.

Thu 12:44 "This is good!" he says. "I've just done some changes on the car and now we're there. Not bad for a man over 40!"

Thu 12:52 Breen's misfire has come back in earnest, and it hasn't helped his confidence either, leading to a small off. He loses 38s to the leaders on that stage.

Thu 12:53 Making things tougher for Breen - and everyone else - is that there isn't a service today.

All the crews have is a remote regroup now before the repeat run of Kirkener in an hour.

Thu 12:54 And Breen adds: "my number one mechanic is up in the sky looking over me", a reference to his late co-driver Gareth 'Jaffa' Roberts.

Thu 12:55 SS4 times:

1 Mikkelsen
(VW) 8m58.9s
2 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +1.6s
3 Latvala (VW) +2.3s
4 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +3.6s
5 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +6.0s
6 Ogier (VW) +7.1s

Thu 12:58 Overall standings after SS4:

1 Ogier (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +1.6s
3 Latvala (VW) +6.1s
4 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +8.3s
5 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +15.0s
6 Ostberg (Citroen) +18.0s
7 Neuville (Hyundai) +25.0s
8 Hanninen (Hyundai) +25.5s
9 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +27.8s
10 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +27.9s

Meeke and Kubica 11th and 12th

Thu 13:00 SS4 summary:

* Mikkelsen goes quickest and slashes Ogier's lead from 8.6s to just 1.6s.
* Ogier only sixth fastest so whole lead group closes right up, with Latvala and Tanak also within 8.3s of first place.
* Henning Solberg an amazing second fastest, jumping into the top 10
* Misfire and slight off drop Breen further into the midfield.

Andreas MikkelsenThu 13:09 Here's the full summary of how the VW vs Tanak battle developed this morning:

Thursday morning report

Thu 13:18 In WRC2, it's Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rahji leading Finland's Jari Ketomaa in the snow.

Ketomaa is just 5s behind, and reckoned if he pushed any harder he'd be "in the ditch".

Sometime Junior WRC and IRC man Karl Kruuda is in contention too, 10s behind Ketomaa.

Thu 13:20 As the weekend goes on, tyres are set to become a major concern.

The temperature only briefly dipped below zero yesterday and is expected to rise through the event.

That warm weather is wreaking havoc with the rally roads. Without the thick layer of ice or heavy snow needed, the gravel base of the country roads is coming through and lying in wait to rip the studs from the specialist winter tyres fitted to the WRC cars.

The drivers have 24 tyres to get them through the 200 miles of competition.

SpeedoThu 13:24 This time last year, the temperature was hovering around -15 degrees.

But this was the best we could get on the road to Norway yesterday – this winter rally needs to be more wintry!

Thu 13:24 After this quick regroup, we have repeat runs of Kirkener and Finnskogen back to back, starting in half an hour.

Then there's a short pause while crews return from Norway to Sweden ready to finish the day with a repeat of the morning's opening Torsby stage.

Thu 13:29 Porsche wizard Richard Tuthill had been working to get a 2012 Carrera Cup 911 997 from race to rally specification in time for Rally Sweden, but ran out of time.

Despite that setback, Tuthill says the plan to run a modern Porsche in the FIA's all-new R-GT class remains firmly on track.

Marc Duez ran an earlier version of the 911 in Monte Carlo, where the car received a rapturous welcome from fans watching in the French Alps.

"Obviously, it's very disappointing that we're not going to make Sweden," Tuthill told AUTOSPORT. "I have to say, the FIA – Michele [Mouton] in particular - the Swedish organisers and the MSA have all been really helpful.

"It's got to be right. I can't wait to get the car running, it'll be insane!"

ToiletThu 13:31 AUTOSPORT's DAVID EVANS made this discovery in the service park yesterday - but ultimately even this technological marvel only made him sad about the lack of snow.

"How civilised is this? A heated portaloo. In years gone we have really needed these, this time around less so."

Thu 13:47 Weather latest: It's -1, and it is snowing slightly, but only tiny flakes so won't make much difference to the stages. In fact the weather feels more Rally GB in November (chilly and miserable) than classic Rally Sweden.

Thu 13:49 We're just over five minutes away from the action resuming with SS5.

Leader Ogier is under pressure after his gap to Mikkelsen shrunk from 8.1s to 1.6s on SS4.

The champion said that was the first stage where there was enough loose snow on the road for running first to become a problem.

"I'm very surprised to be leading," Ogier told AUTOSPORT at the regroup.

"There was quite a lot of loose snow in Finnskogen, which I thought would cost me more.

"I didn't have splits for the last section of the stage, so I don't know how I lost so much time there."

Thu 14:06 No problems for Ogier and Meeke as they come through first. Meeke is a very respectable 2.6s slower than the champion.

Thu 14:08 Latvala is happier as he completes the stage than he was on the first run this morning - when he was pretty despondent.

What he thought was a gearshift problem this morning turns out to have been a minor electrical issue cutting the engine on the change from first to second gear, which is hurting on slower stages like this one.

As the midday halt today was just a regroup rather than a full service, he'll have to work around that glitch until tonight.

Thu 14:09 Latvala was 0.6s down on Ogier that time, which was 6s better than the gap on the first run a few hours ago.

Thu 14:11 Mikkelsen is quickest again and slashes Ogier's lead to just half a second - and he says he could have gone quicker:

"I did a mistake there, I was out in the loose snow for a couple of seconds."

Thu 14:12 Mikkelsen is fastest on the stage so far by 1.1s over Ogier - and now we're off to the Finnskogen stage where Mikkelsen made such big gains over Ogier last time.

Thu 14:14 Hirvonen has been getting better and better today after a pretty quiet start. He's come through second fastest, 0.4s down on Mikkelsen but 0.7s quicker than Ogier.

"I'm driving at 99.5 per cent," Hirvonen told AUTOSPORT at the regroup.

"You look at the times and there are three VWs, then us.

"If I push harder than we'll start to take risks."

Robert KubicaThu 14:16 Interesting info from Robert Kubica at the end of this stage - he says his Fiesta's upshifts aren't great when there's wheelspin in the churned-up parts of the course and the system might need some rethinking.

He uses a unique paddleshift system on his car to compensate for the physical limitations with his right arm following his devastating crash three years ago.

Thu 14:18 Heading into this stage, Kubica was 12th overall, between Meeke and Evans.

Thu 14:20 Next through will be the Hyundais. AUTOSPORT's interview with Juho Hanninen at the regroup looked set to be brief as he answered our first questions with "good" and "fine".

But he was more forthcoming when we quizzed him about his near-miss mistake near the end of the stage before the regroup.

"I kind of ran over a snow bank and it was 50-50. I only went through it at about 5km/h, but I've been stuck in those before."

Thu 14:20 And as we type that, Hanninen's team-mate Neuville comes through fastest on SS5!

Is this going to be the Hyundai i20 WRC's first stage win...?

It's going to depend on Solberg and Tanak's pace, we reckon.

Thu 14:22 Hanninen is impressed.

"Oooh, Thierry has a good time! He had a good run," he acknowledges as he clocks his team-mate's 5m36.6s. "We all know the car's got a lot of potential."

Thu 14:23 Sorry Hyundai, you'll have to wait. Tanak beats Neuville's time and is our fastest man so far.

That's going to bring him right back at Latvala in the battle for third too.

Thu 14:24 Tanak is understandably buoyant.

He was tipped as M-Sport and Ford's next big star two years ago, but his first shot at the WRC in 2012 didn't go well and he lost his seat. This is his second chance, and he's certainly making the most of it.

"I've had such a long time to analyse... I can't tell you how hungry I am. I just want to drive!"

Thu 14:25 That hasn't just closed Tanak up on Latvala, it's brought him ahead!

The young Estonian returnee in the scary black M-Sport Ford is up to third in front of the factory VW once more.

Thu 14:28 Tanak has had a podium before, in Italy in 2012. He spent last year back in Estonian national rallying in a Group N Subaru.

Thu 14:30 There's an intra-family battle brewing at the foot of the top 10.

At the end of this morning, Pontus Tidemand was just 0.1s ahead of his stepfather Henning Solberg in the fight for ninth.

"I'm after Pontus now!" Solberg declared to AUTOSPORT at the regroup, then went into 'proud karting Dad' mode and corrected himself: "no, he is too fast for me."

Let's see... Solberg is due through next.

Thu 14:33 Tidemand won that one, he moves ahead of Hanninen for eighth, while Solberg remains 10th.

Thu 14:34 SS5 times:

1 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) 5m36.1s
2 Neuville (Hyundai) +0.5s
3 Mikkelsen (VW) +1.9s
4 Hirvonen (Citroen) +2.3s
5 Ogier (VW) +3.0s
6 Latvala (VW) +3.6s

Thu 14:37 Leading standings:

1 Ogier (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +0.5s
3 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +5.3s
4 Latvala (VW) +6.7s
5 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +14.3s
6 Ostberg (Citroen) +19.5s
7 Neuville (Hyundai) +22.5s
8 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +28.6s
9 Hanninen (Hyundai) +28.7s
10 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +29.6s

Thu 14:38 SS5 summary:

* Mikkelsen gets Ogier's lead down to just half a second
* Tanak fastest and jumps Latvala for third, moving to within 5.3s of the lead
* Neuville comes within 0.5s of the Hyundai i20's first stage win

Thu 14:40 We're straight onto Finnskogen and Ogier has just completed the stage.

He predicts that Mikkelsen will be faster than him (and will therefore take the lead) and says he did the best he could with the stage conditions as he reckons being first on the road hurts on this one.

Thu 14:41 Meeke is next through. Earlier today he decided Finnskogen in the snow was better than the legendary Ouninpohja in Finland, previously his (and most other drivers') favourite stage in the world. He's 9.2s off Ogier.

Thu 14:42 Mikkelsen is 1.1s faster than Ogier at the first split - so he's on course to take the lead.

Thu 14:45 Latvala comes through a second slower than Ogier. He's mildly unimpressed with his pace. It's not a full-on self-questioning Latvala mood dive, just moderate discontent.

Thu 14:47 Mikkelsen was up to 2.3s faster than Ogier in the middle of the stage, but the margin has come down to a second again.

He's not far from the stage end now.

Thu 14:49 Mikkelsen is 0.7s faster than Ogier on the stage - that's still enough to put him into the lead by 0.2s.

Thu 14:50 Mikkelsen admits he had a scare on that one:

"I thought I had a puncture in the beginning. It felt odd. But I just tried to drive as fast as I could and the grip came back. I was a little bit worried there for a second."

Thu 14:50 It was fitting that Mikkelsen took the lead while still on home turf, with this stage the last one in Norway before the rally moves back to Sweden for the rest of the itinerary.

"I have to say when you see so many Norwegians cheering you on, and your friends and family are here, you want to do well," says Mikkelsen when asked if national pride added anything to his pace.

Thu 14:52 This isn't the first time Mikkelsen has led in the WRC, but previous occasions (like last night) have been following superspecials.

It's completely fair to say that this is the first time the double IRC champion has been properly in the hunt for a WRC win.

Thu 14:54 Next through is Kubica, just under 10s slower than Mikkelsen.

Kubica isn't making many headlines this time, especially compared to his rally-leading turn in Monte Carlo, but he's happy with how he's handling his first proper snow rally as he runs 12th at present.

"I'm pretty pleased with what I've done," he told AUTOSPORT earlier. "I've taken no risks at all, so it's quite good.

"The situation is complicated because the road surface is changing. I can see it changing but I don't know what it's going to change to."

Ott TanakThu 15:01 Not so good for Tanak, he loses 7s to Latvala and relinquishes third place again.

He thinks running so far down the order means he's now getting very aggressive stage conditions for the winter tyres.

"Now the tyres are getting damaged, so we tried to save something for the last stage," he explains.

Thu 15:08 In the Hyundai fight, Neuville is starting to stretch his legs over Hanninen, with 11s between them now.

That means Neuville is in seventh, close behind Ostberg, while Hanninen is among Solberg and Tidemand at the tail of the top 10.

Thu 15:10 It's common at stage ends for the broadcast interviewers to ask drivers to switch from English to their native language to repeat their comments.

AUTOSPORT doesn't speak Norwegian so isn't sure exactly what Solberg just said to the home audience but it was VERY, VERY LOUD.

Thu 15:11 And that's fair enough because it looks like that time is going to vault Solberg up to eighth place.

He's having a lot of fun on his first WRC outing in a year, driving the Ford Fiesta RS WRC that M-Sport normally uses as a test car.

"I have not driven this car for one metre before the shakedown yesterday, and the feeling is getting better and better," Solberg said.

Thu 15:13 SS6 times:

1 Mikkelsen (VW) 8m45.9s
2 Ogier (VW) +0.7s
3 Latvala (VW) +1.7s
4 Ostberg (Citroen) +2.2s
5 Neuville (Hyundai) +4.2s
6 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +4.3s

Thu 15:16 Leading positions after SS6:

1 Mikkelsen (VW)
2 Ogier (VW) +0.2s
3 Latvala (VW) +7.9s
4 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +12.0s
5 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +18.1s
6 Ostberg (Citroen) +21.2s
7 Neuville (Hyundai) +26.2s
8 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +35.3s
9 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +37.2s
10 Hanninen (Hyundai) +37.4s

Meeke and Kubica 11th and 12th

Thu 15:17 SS6 summary:

* Mikkelsen goes fastest and takes the rally lead from Ogier - but only by 0.2s!
* Tanak backs off as tyres fade and loses third to Latvala.
* Solberg moves up from 10th to eighth.

Remote control carThu 15:20 This is either a very small car or a very big building...

Remote control cars kept the world's media entertained outside the Hagfors press office. Easily pleased or easily distracted comes to mind...

Thu 15:21 In WRC2, Ketomaa continues to drop away from leader Al-Rahji.

The Finn is the lead driver for DMACK's WRC tyre programme, which has struggled in the snow in the past. He's very diplomatic, but can't help admitting that he thinks his driving is just fine and maybe the tyres need more testing.

Thu 15:24 Just one stage left to go today - we'll be back in Sweden for a re-run of the 7km Torsby test that opened the morning. It starts in just over half an hour.

Thu 15:28 Plenty of AUTOSPORT readers will be following British contingent Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans, and ex-F1 star Robert Kubica, all of whom are taking it steady today and trying to build snow rallying mileage.

Meeke is 11th, 5s away from a top-10 place, and 10.4s ahead of Kubica, who is 12.5s ahead of Evans.

Craig Breen is running 14th, 16s off Evans, which is a respectable slot given his misfire.

GRC BeetleThu 15:31 In slightly rallying-ish news, Volkswagen and Andretti Autosport have today unveiled the VW Beetle they'll use in America's Global Rallycross series this year. Double GRC champion Tanner Foust and ex-F1 man Scott Speed have signed up to drive it.

Thu 15:35 Here's some more snow rallying philosophy from Kris Meeke, who today has been learning about judging changing levels of ice/snow/mud on a visually deceptive surface:

"You have to detune your eyes. You can see it, but you have to feel it with your arse."

Thu 15:55 Five minutes until the final stage of the leg goes live. Ogier will be first in, and there is just 0.2s between him and Mikkelsen. The stage is just 7km so the margins are going to be small.

It's very nearly dark, and probably will be by the time the midfield comes through.

Thu 16:04 Ogier completes the stage in 4m34.1s and sets the benchmark.

Sebastien OgierThu 16:06 Whatever Mikkelsen does, Ogier is happy, having feared he might have to spend the whole first day here clearing fresh snow out of the way for those following him.

"To be honest, it doesn't really matter," he says when asked for his view on the Mikkelsen battle.

"At least I will be second tonight and I'm very happy with that. It is always hard to be first on the road and I wasn't sure I would be in the top three."

Thu 16:06 Meeke completes 4.3s slower than Ogier. He's likely to end the day just outside the top 10.

Thu 16:08 Meeke is very satisfied with his first day of proper snow rallying.

"You have to take your time on this rally," he says. "If you try to run before you can walk, you'll fall flat on your face."

Thu 16:09 Latvala is 4s down on Ogier as he finishes this stage, which is going to drop him further from the lead fight but should keep him third given Tanak's time loss on the last stage.

"It's a bad time. I don't know... It felt difficult to get the grip. Maybe my tyres were a little bit too bad. Tomorrow is a new day."

Thu 16:12 Ostberg is through, and reckons the reason he's been a bit out of sorts today is because conditions were quite different to the only test he's had in the Citroen on snow. He admits he'd hoped he could get his head round the car quicker.

At present, he's on course to complete the day in sixth place.

UmbrellaThu 16:14 Elfyn Evans completes the day smoothly. His arrival at the highest level of world rallying means his own line in merchandise - including this umbrella, which would have been useful last time out in Monte Carlo.

Thu 16:14 Mikkelsen loses the lead! He's 6s slower than Ogier.

Thu 16:16 Mikkelsen says he chose to run old tyres on this stage to make sure he has fresh rubber for Friday.

"We could've chosen to go with new tyres now, then we would've had used tyres tomorrow morning. I preferred to lose time here and have new tyres for the morning.

"It would be nice to fight for the lead overnight but this is a long rally and that's what we've got to think about."

Thu 16:16 Tyres could well decide this rally. Drivers are limited to 24 for the event but the level of gravel on the stages with so little snow around means tyres struggle to retain their studs.

Thu 16:18 Hirvonen loses a few seconds to Ostberg on that stage and that will mean the pair are set to go into day two absolutely tied for fifth place, 22s behind leader Ogier.

Thu 16:20 Kubica completes day one with no problems. He's a second down on sparring partners Meeke and Evans on this stage but should hold 12th overnight.

"It's been a difficult day, but no big dramas and we are here, so it's fine.

"There are still two days to go and a lot to learn, so we hope to go forward."

Thierry NeuvilleThu 16:25 Neuville is 5s off nearest rival Ostberg as he completes his first full day of Hyundai i20 rallying after his Monte Carlo SS1 disaster. That's going to put Neuville seventh overnight.

"A good day for us, I think that was better than expected," he summarises.

Thu 16:26 The questions still to be answered tonight... is Tanak going to get third back from Latvala, and has Solberg got another special stage time up his sleeve to keep him in front in his battle for eighth with stepson Tidemand and Hanninen.

Thu 16:29 Tanak stays in fourth overnight. That's a great comeback for the Estonian, especially considering it's his new co-driver Raigo Molder's first WRC rally and first event in a World Rally Car.

"I was shaking before the first stage, I was so nervous," Tanak told AUTOSPORT earlier.

"But I feel the confidence is coming all the time.

"I just want to stay at this level, not take any risks."

He ends day one 2.6s behind third-placed Latvala.

Thu 16:36 Tough end to the day for Solberg, as he comes through with a right-front puncture. That's going to cost him some time.

"One stone in the road," he reckons, "I don't know, I didn't see it. Right at the start of the stage. Not good."

Thu 16:39 Solberg lost about 50s with that issue, which means Meeke is elevated into the top 10.

Thu 16:41 SS7 results:

1 Ogier (VW) 4m34.1s
2 Ostberg (Citroen) +1.5s
3 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +3.0s
4 Meeke (Citroen) +4.3s
5 Latvala (VW) +4.5s
6 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +4.6s

Thu 16:43 End of day leaderboard:

1 Ogier
(VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s
3 Latvala (VW) +12.2s
4 Tanak (M-Sport) +14.8s
5 Ostberg (Citroen) +22.5s
6 Hirvonen (M-Sport) +22.5s
7 Neuville (Hyundai) +32.0s
8 Hanninen (Hyundai) +42.0s
9 Tidemand (M-Sport) +44.6s
10 Meeke (Citroen) +46.6s

Kubica +59.9s in 11th

Thu 16:44 In WRC2, leader Yazeed Al-Rahji visited a couple of snowbanks on that stage but is pretty sure he didn't lose any more than 6s of his lead over Ketomaa.

"It's all under control," declares the Saudi Arabian.

Thu 16:46 SS7 summary:

* Mikkelsen relinquishes the lead as he chooses to save his new tyres for the morning, falling 5.8s behind Ogier
* Tanak closes the gap to third-placed Latvala back to 2.6s
* Ostberg and Hirvonen now tied for fifth
* Solberg gets a puncture and falls from eighth to 13th

Thu 16:47 Here's the full story of today's events:

Thursday pm report

Thu 16:48 Al-Rahji's hopes of retaining the WRC2 lead despite some mistakes are boosting by Ketomaa losing power steering and then having a wild moment he reckons could've easily ended his rally.

That's it for day one of Rally Sweden on AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live.

Tomorrow we've got nine stages to see how this VW vs Tanak battle develops - and if there's any snow.

We'll be Live from 7am UK time on Friday morning ready for the action resuming with SS8, and we'll leave you with a shot from AUTOSPORT's coffee break earlier today that proves rally fever is absolutely everywhere in Sweden.

Fri 07:12 Good morning and welcome back to AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live for day two of our Rally Sweden coverage.

Can Andreas Mikkelsen overcome his world champion Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier? The fight is wide open and we've still got 17 snowy-ish stages to go over the next two days.

Fri 07:14 It's reverse rally order on the stages this morning, so we'll get the likes of Martin Prokop, Khalid Al-Qassimi and Michal Solowow through and build up towards the big guns.

Fri 07:15 Here's the leaderboard heading onto today's Lesjofers opener:

1 Ogier (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s
3 Latvala (VW) +12.2s
4 Tanak (M-Sport) +14.8s
5 Ostberg (Citroen) +22.5s
6 Hirvonen (M-Sport) +22.5s
7 Neuville (Hyundai) +32.0s
8 Hanninen (Hyundai) +42.0s
9 Tidemand (M-Sport) +44.6s
10 Meeke (Citroen) +46.6s

Andreas MikkelsenFri 07:24 Some of the big questions going into this morning:

* Can Mikkelsen come back at Ogier and regain the lead? He relinquished it yesterday afternoon when saving tyres for a charge today.

* Who will win the podium battle between Latvala and Tanak, and will they close in on the lead fight?

* Can the tied-for-fifth Hirvonen and Ostberg get into podium contention, and can the Hyundais close in on them?

* Will Kubica be able to get into the top 10 as he raises his pace as his knowledge of snow rallying grows?

* What can Solberg achieve? Second-fastest on one stage yesterday on his and Pirelli's WRC return, but now back in 13th after a puncture.

Fri 07:26 The reason Czech driver Martin Prokop is at the tail of the WRC order and therefore first on the road this morning is because he put his Ford into a ditch on yesterday morning's first stage and lost three minutes while spectators helped him out (and he was a bit peeved that some preferred to film his shunt rather than assisting him).

But the most notable thing about Prokop's shunt was that it was the only one among the ample WRC field this weekend. It and Henning Solberg's puncture were the only incidents on day one in what was otherwise a straight fight.

Fri 07:30 Prokop comes through safely and we'll have Citroen's Khalid Al-Qassimi next.

We used to always say not to expect too much on snow from drivers who had done most of their rallying in the Middle East, but with Saudi Arabia's Yazeed Al-Rahji beating all the Scandinavians in WRC2 right now, maybe we should raise the bar...

Fri 07:34 Craig Breen completes the stage, and says there's enough snow in there to make being early in the running order pretty eventful.

"Really, really difficult conditions. That's an eye-opener. You have to keep the car in whatever lines are there, and there are only three of them, so there's not much choice."

Fri 07:35 He also reveals that the misfire that plagued him yesterday was accentuated by his driving style on his first run in a World Rally Car.

"It was a misfire, but it was because I was changing gear too early, I was loading the turbo up too much. You live and learn."

Fri 07:37 This time last year nine-time WRC champion co-driver Daniel Elena was rattling along these roads in Sebastien Loeb's passenger seat.

Now he's at home in the warm, with coffee, following Rally Sweden online - and he's just tweeted this atmospheric 'selfie' to prove it.

Fri 07:38 Henning Solberg is our pacesetter so far. He's 11s up on Elfyn Evans and 18s quicker than Breen.

That time brings Solberg to within 1.2s of Evans as they battle for 12th.

Fri 07:40 Slower time for Kubica, he finishes the stage 25s off Solberg's pace, so he'll be only just ahead of Evans and Solberg now.

"Very, very tricky. I think I've done a big mistake on the set-up. I was all over the place with a lot of oversteer.

"The grip level is lower than yesterday and additional I've made a set-up change that didn't work.

"We will do something"

Fri 07:43 Kris Meeke is third quickest, just behind Evans.

He reckons conditions are now getting worse for cars lower down the order. The loose snow has gone but the mud is coming through and more rocks are being pulled into the road.

So is being somewhere in the middle the ideal spot right now?

Fri 07:44 Trouble for Hyundai - the tracking system shows seventh-placed Thierry Neuville stopped on the stage.

Fri 07:44 As one Hyundai stops, the other flies through with the fastest stage time so far, with Juho Hanninen beating Solberg's mark.

Fri 07:45 Hanninen is happy with the car and the tyres, less so with himself.

"OK, the time seems to be reasonable, but I'm not happy with my driving. The tyres offered much better grip than I thought."

Fri 07:46 Everything might have seemed rosy on the outside for Hyundai yesterday – both cars in the top eight, decent stage times and no dents in the i20 WRC, etc – but there was a day one failure which went almost unreported: Neuville's jack failed.

The Belgian was robbed of the ability to swap front for rear tyres on his car in the afternoon.

Asked for a technical explanation of the failure, he told AUTOSPORT: "It went up, then it came down."

Fri 07:46 Neuville remains stopped on the stage at present. Hanninen hadn't received any info from their Hyundai team, so we'll have to wait for info from Hirvonen once he's passed the i20.

Fri 07:47 Mikko Hirvonen is on course to beat Hanninen's time, but Ostberg and Latvala are going faster still.

Mikkelsen and Ogier will be next onto the stage.

Mikko HirvonenFri 07:48 Hirvonen's 9m26s stage time is 6s quicker than Hanninen.

Fri 07:49 Hirvonen reports that Neuville had just parked his car rather than crashed it, though as he pointed out, that could mean he'd broken something on the i20 rather than it breaking down.

Fri 07:51 Ostberg beats Hirvonen by a second, which means he ends their tie and takes fifth place for himself too.

"Very, very difficult start to the morning," Ostberg reports. "The stage was really tricky, but we are through with no problems."

Fri 07:54 Bad news for Tanak, he's had a spin near the end of the stage and reckons it took him a long time to get straight again as it was on a narrow section.

He also thinks new co-driver Raigo Molder's inexperience is going to be costly now - these are "proper stages" and "we lost the pace notes many times."

This is both Molder's first WRC event and first run in a World Rally Car.

Fri 07:54 Latvala blasts through with the fastest time so far, 7s up on Ostberg - and neither Mikkelsen nor Ogier is matching the Finn on the splits at the moment.

Fri 07:55 Latvala says there's now a lot of snow pushed to the side beyond the 'ruts' that effectively become a racing line. Getting off-line is not advisable.

Fri 07:56 Mikkelsen finishes the stage 5.8s slower than Latvala, so the gap between them is down to 0.6s. Ogier isn't hugely faster than Latvala so far...

Fri 07:57 Ogier has stopped on the stage!

Fri 07:58 The tracking system now shows Ogier moving again, but how much time has he lost?

Now he's shown as stopped.

Fri 07:58 Ogier has lost at least two minutes as Al-Rahji is about to pass him on the stage.

Fri 07:59 This means the lead battle becomes Mikkelsen versus Latvala and they're only 0.6s apart!

Fri 08:00 Tanak's spin dropped him behind Ostberg and Hirvonen, but the three of them are still within 3.8s in what is now a battle for third.

Fri 08:01 Ogier has got going again among the WRC2 cars.

He's now out of contention for victory and will be a long way down the order.

Fri 08:02 Al-Rahji reckons Ogier went off as he appeared to be stuck in a snow bank when he went past the VW.

Fri 08:02 Tracking system shows that Neuville is moving again. Reports suggest there was some wheel damage on the i20.

Fri 08:03 Ogier completes the stage and confesses it was his own mistake. The VW is heavily packed with snow in its front.

"I just went into the snow bank and got stuck. It was on a slow corner. I was not really concentrated. It's a stupid mistake.

"For sure I will do my best now. I don't know what is possible but I guess it's going to be hard."

Fri 08:05 And Neuville has stopped again.

Fri 08:06 Ogier lost a total of four and a half minutes with that mistake. That means he's be outside the overall top 20.

Fri 08:06 Full standings shortly, but to summarise, we now have Mikkelsen leading the rally by just 0.6s over Latvala, then Ostberg/Hirvonen/Tanak with 3.8s of each other in third-place fight.

Fri 08:15 The drama isn't limited to the overall lead battle - in WRC2, Jari Ketomaa has just carved over 20s out of Yazeed Al-Rahji's overnight cushion.

Fri 08:24 Right, deep breath, let's recap the positions and everything that has just happened...

Fri 08:26 SS8 times:

1 Latvala (VW) 9m19.9s
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +6.0s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +6.5s
5 Hanninen (Hyundai) +12.9s
6 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +17.5s

(and don't forget Tanak's time includes a spin!)

Fri 08:28 Overall leaderboard:

1 Mikkelsen (VW)
2 Latvala (VW) +0.6s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +16.9s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +17.4s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +20.7s
6 Hanninen (Hyundai) +43.3s
7 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +1m03.6s
8 Meeke (Citroen) +1m05.4s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +1m29.2s
10 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +1m30.9s

Kubica is half a second behind Solberg in 11th.

Sebastien OgierFri 08:30 SS7 summary:

* Ogier goes off and loses four and a half minutes and the rally lead!
* Latvala wins the stage and closes to within 0.6s of new leader Mikkelsen.
* Tanak has a spin and falls behind Ostberg and Hirvonen to fifth.
* Neuville parks on the stage with a problem and retires.
* A slow time for Kubica, who says he got set-up wrong, means he falls behind Evans and Solberg. The Pole is now 11th.

Fri 08:31 And the next stage is live. Prokop first in.

Fri 08:32 We've now got Fredriksberg (18.15km), Rammen (22.76km) and Hagfors (1.87km) in very quick succession before service.

Fri 08:35 Last night, VW team boss Jost Capito insisted there would be no team orders for his drivers, then running one-two-three.

AUTOSPORT asked Mikkelsen, then second to Ogier, if he reckoned he would be allowed to win, seeing as he is effectively number three in the team given his lack of WRC experience.

Can you win this rally, we asked Mikkelsen.

"I don't know, the podium is the target here. But, if the opportunity comes along then I'm not going to hide!"

But will you be allowed to win, we ventured.

"Yes, I think so. Write it... if you write it, then I'm sure I'll be allowed!"

Fri 08:35 There you go VW, we wrote it.

VW dinnerFri 08:37 Would Ogier have made that mistake if he'd had a proper dinner last night?

In AUTOSPORT's snap, Julien Ingrassia joins Latvala, Miikka Anttila and Mikko Markkula for some Thursday evening tucker at VW.

Ogier joined them a couple of minutes later and had some salad. Is that the supper of a world champion?

Fri 08:39 More times to come through still, but at the moment Ogier is down to 20th overall, 4m18s off the lead and 2m48.5s away from the points.

So scoring is still doable (especially with the power stage in mind).

Fri 08:41 Prokop completes SS8. He says there is plenty of snow in there to clean out of the way, and that the ruts in the road "are doing crazy things to the car".

This is going to be a tricky stage all round regardless of running order position.

Fri 08:43 Hyundai confirms that Neuville's problem was that he hit a stone and damaged the i20.

That's two shunt-related retirements in two rallies for Neuville so far this year.

He can use Rally2 in Sweden, and from Hyundai's point of view it'll be worth it for the mileage, but he'll incur 45 minutes of penalties.

Fri 08:47 Craig Breen suspects he might've broken something in his Fiesta's rear end. The handling is odd and he's feeling a lot of jolts.

Fri 08:49 Henning Solberg beats Breen and Prokop to set our fastest time so far, but reports there is "SO MUCH snow" on the road in typically exuberant Solberg fashion.

Tidemand and SolbergFri 08:51 AUTOSPORT spotted Solberg and Tidemand having a father and stepson chat yesterday.

They were just 0.1s apart in their battle at the bottom of the points position for a while on leg one before Solberg's puncture dropped him back.

Not sure who lives in the slightly dodgy looking caravan behind though...

Fri 08:53 Kubica comes through, 17s slower than Solberg. He managed to bring his Fiesta's set-up back towards something more suitable between stages, but he can't get it completely where he wants it until service.

"I made a mistake in evaluating the road conditions. I have to discover the car and treat this rally as a test, and this time it didn't really work."

Fri 08:54 Kubica has lost a chunk of time to Solberg there and a little to Evans, but has pulled further away from Breen so is in a more solitary 11th spot right now.

Fri 08:56 Kris Meeke is another man on a learning mission this weekend, having never done a fully-fledged snow rally before.

He says he doesn't feel he can trust his judgement in the conditions yet. He might get Tidemand for seventh on this stage, though.

Fri 08:58 Tidemand isn't happy this morning.

"The feeling is not so good. It's going all over the road," says last year's Junior WRC champion and Sweden giantkiller.

He does indeed lose a place to Meeke.

Fri 08:59 Hanninen beats Solberg to the fastest time so far, and apologises to the spectators for not being as flamboyant as he might've wanted over the jumps.

With Neuville out, Hyundai needs Hanninen to keep it clean. He's currently sixth.

Juho HanninenFri 09:00 This is how Hanninen prefers to take jumps.

Fri 09:02 The battle between Hirvonen and Ostberg is very close on the stages, with little to choose between them at the splits.

Raising the stakes still further, Hirvonen tweeted "shall we bet some beers?" at Ostberg during the gap between stages...

Fri 09:03 Hirvonen is through fastest so far, 4s up on Hanninen.

Fri 09:06 Ostberg beats Hirvonen by 1.1s, so the gap between them is up to 1.6s.

Fri 09:08 Tanak is just 0.3s off Ostberg, despite still finding inexperienced co-driver Molder's pace note reading on the fast sections a bit unnerving.

"I just need to give him some time to get used to it. We can handle it."

Fri 09:09 Latvala comes through 6.2s faster than Ostberg, but how will it compare to Mikkelsen?

"He's doing a really good rally. He has the young spirit," says Latvala of his team-mate and rival.

"He didn't do this rally last year so he's doing an amazing job.

"But let's see, it's a long rally."

Fri 09:10 Mikkelsen faster still! His lead is up to 3.3s.

"We took some new tyres and I think it was the right choice.

"We'll see how hard we've used them, this rally is all about tyres.

"Before, I've been too eager in these situations. I need to avoid mistakes."

Fri 09:12 Ogier beats Mikkelsen by 0.3s so gets the stage win. Good start to his comeback drive - he's 4m15s off the lead but might have a shot at points still.

If you're just joining us, Ogier went off on today's first stage.

Fri 09:13 SS9 times:

1 Ogier (VW) 10m25.2s
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.8s
3 Latvala (VW) +5.5s
4 Ostberg (Citroen) +11.7s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +12.0s
6 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +12.8s

Fri 09:16 Leaderboard after SS9:

1 Mikkelsen
(VW)
2 Latvala (VW) +3.3s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +25.8s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +27.4s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +29.9s
6 Hanninen (Hyundai) +57.4s
7 Meeke (Citroen) +1m32.0s
8 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +1m33.3s
9 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +1m48.2s
10 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +1m59.0s

Fri 09:16 And for the Kubica fans, he's 5s behind Evans in 11th. We'll let you know where Ogier slots in as more cars come through, but he'll have already moved up from 20th.

Fri 09:18 SS9 summary:

* Mikkelsen inches lead over Latvala up to 3.3s
* Meeke takes seventh from Tidemand
* Solberg takes ninth from Evans
* Ogier fastest as he begins comeback after SS7 excursion

Fri 09:18 Quick-fire stages all morning today, Rammen is already underway for first-man-on-the-road Prokop.

Fri 09:19 More cultural exploration evidence from AUTOSPORT's DAVID EVANS.

"Wonder what this mag's all about?"Tractor

Fri 09:20 We also wonder how many Scandinavian WRC winners learned some of their car control hammering tractors around Finnish farms at surprisingly young ages. Rather a lot, we'd guess.

Fri 09:23 Ogier is now 15th, 4m16s off the lead and 2m18s away from a point. He cleared the WRC2 midfield and WRC stragglers with that SS9 stage end.

Fri 09:28 Early problem for Solberg on the Rammen stage, with a slow first split.

It's been a case of speed/problem/speed/problem for Solberg on his comeback so far, with a spin and a puncture among yesterday's adventures, but some very rapid times in between. He had got up to ninth, 15s behind stepson Tidemand, before this stage.

Fri 09:33 Breen has had to pass Solowow on the stage after problems for the Pole. It looks on the tracking system like Solowow parked up to let the Irishman through without too much delay.

Fri 09:34 First few drivers through have predicted that what snow there is on these stages will be swept aside by the first runs this morning and the roads will basically be gravel by the afternoon. Definitely more rain than snow in the air right now.

Fri 09:35 Breen says Solowow was no problem.

"Thanks to Mr Solowow, he pulled it out of the way way before time and let me come through, he was a true gentleman."

Fri 09:38 Solberg reveals he had a spin at the start of that stage.

"There was so much snow on the road where someone had touched the snow bank before, and I properly spun around," he explains.

That hasn't stopped him being fastest so far...

Michal SolowowFri 09:39 Solowow also confirms he went off. And it might've been coincidence rather than manners that caused him to pull over for Breen, as he had to park to clear snow from the front of the car before it overheated.

Fri 09:42 Early splits show Hirvonen a couple of seconds quicker than Ostberg, who he's battling with for third.

Fri 09:47 Good stage from Kubica, who is briefly fastest and gets a provisional 10th place back from M-Sport team-mate Evans.

"Actually this stage was the easiest for us. The set-up change we did was better for this type of stage. I think we're going in the right direction now," says Kubica.

"This morning it was really, really difficult for me to stay on the road when the car was sliding a lot, but we managed it, so that's another learning process."

Fri 09:48 Tidemand is another man happy with some changes. He's been out of sorts so far this morning but has adjusted his Fiesta's set-up and got his confidence firmly back.

A quicker time brings him back past Meeke for a provisional seventh.

Fri 09:49 Meeke gives us some insight into conditions on a rally stage that isn't as snowy as it should be:

"You've got two gravel lines that offer mega grip, then a lot of slushy snow that is just lethal."

Fri 09:58 Mikkelsen loses the lead to Latvala!

Fri 09:59 A massive scare for Mikkelsen with a high-speed off on that stage. It costs him about 5s and Latvala now has a 1.8s lead.

"We went out in a ditch in fourth or fifth gear and filled the front with snow. Lucky to get out of that!" says Mikkelsen.

Fri 10:00 And while his team-mates battle for the win, Ogier is reminding everyone how fast he is by taking another fastest time.

"I did a stupid mistake and now I just have to finish the rally. There's not much to get anymore as we're too far away, but we'll try to have fun in the car..."

Fri 10:01 That time is likely to bring Ogier up to 13th overall, ahead of the WRC2 leaders, and then his next target will be Breen.

Fri 10:02 The short Hagfors Sprint, our last stage before service this morning, is already underway, with Prokop and Al-Qassimi already through its 1.87kms.

Mads OstbergFri 10:03 The battle for third spread out on that last stage. Hirvonen was up on Ostberg at first, but then the latter said he changed his technique a little mid-stage.

It seemed to work, as Ostberg outpaced Hirvonen by 5s, bringing the gap up to 7.4s.

Tanak fell a little further away too, still struggling with co-driver Molder not getting the pace notes in sync with the car's pace on his first experience of a WRC machine.

Fri 10:07 SS10 times:

1 Ogier (VW) 11m55.0s
2 Latvala (VW) +4.2s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +9.0s
4 Mikkelsen (VW) +9.3s
5 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +14.8s
6 Hanninen (Hyundai) +19.3s

Fri 10:09 Leaderboard after SS10:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +1.8s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +27.3s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +34.7s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +43.7s
6 Hanninen (Hyundai) +1m09.2s
7 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +1m51.7s
8 Meeke (Citroen) +1m53.5s
9 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +2m17.9s
10 Kubica (M-Sport Ford) +2m33.2s

Fri 10:10 SS10 summary:

* Mikkelsen has a high-speed trip through a ditch and falls 1.8s behind Latvala in the lead battle.
* Ostberg pulls away from Hirvonen to make third more secure.
* Tidemand reclaims seventh from Meeke.
* Solberg has a spin but stays ninth.
* Kubica takes 10th from Evans.
* Ogier is fastest and moves up to 13th, 4m08s off the lead, a minute and a half from the points.

Fri 10:11 Over at Hagfors, Solberg is the early pacesetter, 2.9s up on Breen.

Fri 10:12 Kubica is 0.4s slower than team-mate Evans on Hagfors, so they're now just 0.1s apart in their fight over 10th place, with the Pole ahead.

Fri 10:13 Little slip for Tidemand as he stalls at the start of Hagfors. He was 1.8s ahead of Meeke before the stage.

Fri 10:13 But Meeke has worries of his own - he says there's a problem with the car and he has to head quickly into service.

Fri 10:15 Meeke's mystery issue is clear in his time - he's 4.8s slower than current pacesetter Solberg on this short stage.

FlagFri 10:18 It means Meeke has fallen back behind Tidemand by 1.4s in their seventh-place battle. And that will disappoint the owner of this flag.

Fri 10:24 Hirvonen trims 0.2s back off the gap to third-placed Ostberg.

"It's a tricky stage, it's quite OK now when the tyres are not so bad, but it will be an interesting stage in the afternoon," says Ostberg.

"It's important for the spectators and it smells really nice here."

He's referring to the barbeques it seems, rather than suggesting Hagfors' spectators are notably fragrant.

Fri 10:25 Tanak is right between Hirvonen and Ostberg on the stage times.

Fri 10:28 Tanak is now 9s behind Hirvonen in fourth and 16s behind third-placed Ostberg, so the podium is drifting away - but he's sanguine about that.

"Yesterday was more than we expected so we can't be disappointed with today," says Tanak, who hasn't been in WRC action since November 2012 and whose co-driver Raigo Molder hasn't been in a World Rally Car before.

Fri 10:29 Mikkelsen takes 0.2s back from Latvala on Hagfors, so they head to service just 1.6s apart in this stunning lead battle.

Fri 10:40 Ogier's run of stage wins came to an end on Hagfors, so that means crowd favourite Henning Solberg remains fastest.

And his brother Petter was quickest on the supporting Historic rally's opening stage too.

Fri 10:41 SS11 times:

1 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) 2m00.8s
2 Ogier (VW) +1.7s
3 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +2.1s
4 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +2.2s
5 Ostberg (Citroen) +2.3s
6 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.8s

Fri 10:43 Leaderboard after SS11:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +1.6s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +26.6s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +33.8s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +42.9s
6 Hanninen (Hyundai) +1m09.2s
7 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +1m53.9s
8 Meeke (Citroen) +1m55.3s
9 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +2m14.9s
10 Kubica (M-Sport Ford) +2m34.0s

Fri 10:44 And Ogier is still 13th, 4m07.3s from the lead, 1m33.3s from a point and 49.0s from next target Breen.

Fri 10:45 The crews are in service now, with the next loop beginning in just under an hour and a half.

Race Centre Live will slow the updates down for a spell and be back in earnest when SS12 begins at 13.08 Swedish time, 12.08 UK time.

KarlstadFri 10:46 In the meantime, here's a picture of how un-snowy Karlstad is today. Where's it all gone?

Fri 11:42 About half an hour now until we're back to Lesjofers for the start of the next loop.

Schedule for the rest of the day is a repeat of the morning's quartet of stages, which are expected to be increasingly less snowy, more gravel-flavoured, then a return to the service park in Hagfors, followed by a break before an evening superspecial in Karlstad.

Winter TrailFri 11:43 The Winter Trail classic car rally stopped in Karlstad for an overnight halt yesterday.

Here's proof that Citroen has been making quality rally cars for some time now.

The Winter Trail started in Copenhagen on February 2 and finishes in Oslo tomorrow.

On the way, the drivers of these gorgeous cars take in come quality roads and some tidy ales like the ones they were feasting on in the Bishops Arms in town last night.

Fri 11:48 Sebastien Ogier has just explained his visit to a Lesjofors snowbank to AUTOSPORT in more detail.

"I wasn't concentrating completely on the entrance to the corner," he said. "The front of the car caught the snowbank which flicked the rear of the car into bank and the front then went straight in.

"Maybe I was a little bit unlucky... I saw lots of holes in the snowbanks, but it was only me that got stuck in there. I have to say thank the spectators though, lots of them came and pulled me out - without them we might still be there."

Fri 11:52 Real anticipation between Mikklesen and Latvala in service. The pair are them are fully animated now and really looking forward to getting back out there for another fight through the afternoon.

Mikkelsen's decision to save his tyres yesterday means he's on fresh rubber from here to the finish. Asked if Latvala had done the same, he replied: "I don't think so..."

Elsewhere in the service park, M-Sport's Mikko Hirvonen looks to have lost his spark for the moment. Apart from sliding the Fiesta RS WRC through a ditch briefly this morning, the Finn's had a clean run, but he's still struggling to match the Polo pace.

Fri 11:54 Coat watch update... people are now venturing outside the remote press office in Hagfors unjacketed.

MiniFri 12:06 Here's a bit more classic fever from the Winter Trail. What a shame the World Rally Car version of this car isn't at the front of the other major motorsport event in Sweden right now.

Fri 12:06 Cars are now poised on the startline of Lesjofors, with battle resuming for the afternoon loop in a couple of minutes.

Fri 12:12 Afternoon talking points...

* Are drivers going to end up in deep tyre trouble? There's going to be a lot of slush and gravel on this loop, and little - if any - snow.
* Just 1.6s between Latvala and Mikkelsen in first and second.
* Can Ostberg cement the third place he's made increasingly safe from Hirvonen and Tanak?
* Will Kubica start creeping further up the top 10?
* How far will Ogier's recovery charge take him? He's up to 13th now, a point is 1m30s away.

Fri 12:12 Prokop and Al-Qassimi are onto the stage now.

Fri 12:13 And here's a reminder of everything that happened this morning:

Friday am report

Martin ProkopFri 12:20 First man on the road Prokop, who is 19th in the standings after his shunt yesterday, gives us a pretty good analysis of the road conditions now that the field is tackling these stages for a second time:

"It's an absolutely different rally for me now than in the morning, it's mostly gravel.

"If you stay on the line there's good grip, but you literally have to follow the lines.

"If you go off literally just a bit, you have a big problem.

"There are constant conditions now and I don't have to clear the road anymore."

Fri 12:22 That's not an absolutely up-to-the-minute picture of Prokop, by the way. His car's muddier now.

Fri 12:23 Tracking system is showing Kubica stopping on the stage.

Fri 12:28 No more information about Kubica's problem yet, but he's still static on the tracking.

Breen was relieved to get through as he had an impact with a stone that he thought would do some damage.

Solberg is our pacesetter so far, but said: "you really have to concentrate to avoid going off the road".

Fri 12:29 Elfyn Evans completes the stage, he's 16s down on Solberg's time having had a quick spin.

Fri 12:30 Kubica should have been through next but is still shown as having stopped 3km onto the stage. Meeke will hopefully have information when he reaches the end shortly.

Fri 12:33 Meeke does indeed bring news of Kubica, who has gone off the road:

"He's off on a left-hander just after a crest. He's just run an inch or two wide and got stuck in a big snow bank.

"All the spectators are trying to get him back on the road. He should be OK but he's going to lose a few minutes."

Fri 12:33 Tracking system now shows Kubica moving, but Hanninen's Hyundai stopped on the stage...

Fri 12:36 Kubica is back up to speed so seems to have been successfully helped out of his snow bank. No split times yet so can't judge how much time he's lost.

Fri 12:38 Tidemand picked up a puncture on that stage, which has cost him about 10s and dropped him back behind Meeke in their battle for seventh.

Fri 12:39 Hirvonen reveals that Hanninen is also off the road in a snow bank, and says he had to slow down for Kubica too as his team-mate rejoined in front of him.

Fri 12:40 It looks like Kubica spent about 10 minutes off the road there, which is going to drop him back to about 25th place overall.

Fri 12:41 Ostberg is frustrated with Kubica, who he calls "stupid" for coming back onto the road in front of him.

Both Ostberg and Hirvonen are slower than Solberg, putting their time loss down to driving around drivers in trouble like Kubica and Hanninen.

Fri 12:42 Tanak capitalises and sets the fastest stage time so far, which brings him back past Hirvonen into a provisional fourth overall.

Fri 12:44 Latvala completes the stage. He was neck and neck with Mikkelsen on the splits and is sounding confident.

"Let's see how Andreas responds."

Fri 12:45 On the last split, Mikkelsen is 1.6s down on Latvala.

Fri 12:46 Hanninen is stopped with a damaged wheel. Still no sign of the Hyundai getting going again. It was on this stage earlier than his team-mate Neuville retired.

Fri 12:47 Mikkelsen is 5s slower than Latvala, so the latter's lead is up to 6s.

A lot of snow on the front of Mikkelsen's VW and he says he has to hurry away with rising water temperatures - which suggests his car has ingested a bit of snow amid a moment.

Fri 12:47 Ogier steals the stage win from Latvala, coming in 2.2s faster.

Fri 12:48 Kubica's time loss in there was just under 11 minutes, so his chances of points are now slender after that excursion.

Fri 12:52 SS12 times:

1 Ogier (VW)
2 Latvala (VW) +2.3s
3 Mikkelsen (VW) +7.3s
4 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +12.6s
5 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +15.4s
6 Ostberg (Citroen) +18.5s

Fri 12:55 Leaderboard after SS12:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +6.6s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +42.8s
4 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +53.2s
5 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) + 56.1s
6 Meeke (Citroen) +2m12.8s
7 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +2m20.3s
8 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +2m28.0s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +3m03.9s
10 Breen (Kel-Tech Ford) +3m41.2s

Fri 12:57 Ogier is now up to 11th, 23.8s behind Breen, and Kubica is 10m43s off the lead. We won't know where that places him overall for a while, but suffice to say it's midfield...

Fri 13:01 SS12 summary:

* Latvala builds his lead to 6.6s over Mikkelsen
* Kubica and Hanninen both go off. Hanninen has to retire with damage, but Kubica gets going after a 10-minute delay - though Hirvonen and Ostberg say he slows them down
* Tanak capitalises and takes fourth back from Hirvonen
* Tidemand gets a puncture so Meeke is up to sixth
* Breen moves into the top 10...
* ...but has Ogier closing on him very, very fast

Yazeed Al-RahjiFri 13:03 In WRC2, Al-Rahji's lead came under threat this morning when he had a spin, allowing Ketomaa to get the gap down to 13s.

But Al-Rahji was unruffled and has rebuilt the cushion to 25s.

Fri 13:07 Hyundai says Hanninen managed to take the right front wheel off his i20, so he's out for the day.

Both cars crashing on the same stage a few hours apart, that's a bit painful for the returnee squad...

At least the i20 is looking reliable and fairly quick, though.

Fri 13:27 We're onto SS13, the second run of Fredriksberg.

Fri 13:28 With all the times from SS12 in, Kubica has ended up in 24th place.

He's 13 minutes from the lead and just over nine and a half minutes from getting back into the points.

So this weekend is even more about just learning now.

Fri 13:34 Prokop is first car safely through SS13, but says he had to dodge a snowman created by spectators in the road since the first pass.

He's amused, but also notes hitting it wouldn't have done his radiator any good.

Fri 13:37 Neither Al-Qassimi nor Solowow saw the snowman. Or if they did, they didn't think it was worth mentioning.

Fri 13:37 Breen comes in fastest of this first group, 6s up on Prokop.

Fri 13:38 Not just no snowman, but no snow, says Breen:

"It's absolutely full gravel now."

Fri 13:46 No dramas for Kubica that time, but he does have time to talk about his SS12 shunt properly now:

"On the last stage, we went over a crest and a snow bank dragged me in. Fortunately there were spectators, who I have to thank. They did a really good job."

Fri 13:46 Meeke is fastest man through now, 4s quicker than temporary benchmark Solberg.

Fri 13:49 Meeke says there is some snow on the stage, but you should avoid it:

"Anything that looks white basically feels like black ice."

Fri 13:51 Good time from Meeke, he's 5.2s quicker than Tidemand, his rival for sixth place so that gap is now up to 12s.

Fri 13:53 Hirvonen gives a blunt assessment of the stage state:

"The stages are completely destroyed. There are five inch ruts in the gravel and sharp stones everywhere. For sure there will be tyre problems."

Fri 13:53 He regains a little time in the battle with Ostberg on that stage, beating the Norwegian by a second.

Fri 13:54 Ostberg says he was just playing it cool, though.

"I just controlled the splits with Mikko and took care of my tyres, so I should have quite good tyres for the last stage."

Fri 13:56 Tanak is another man who has just tried to save his tyres on this stage to make sure they have some life left for Rammen, which is next up and the longest of the leg at 22.76km.

Fri 13:56 Hirvonen got back ahead of Tanak on that stage to reclaim fourth, they're now 3.1s apart.

Fri 13:57 Now we're waiting for our battling VW lead rivals...

Fri 13:57 On the splits, Mikkelsen was coming back at Latvala after losing time on the last stage and it looks like the gap will close again.

Jari-Matti LatvalaFri 13:58 Latvala says in the forest section of the stage there was a decent amount of soft snow, then it became fully gravel.

"Great grip but very hard for the tyres," is his summary.

He's fastest so far by 5s but let's see what Mikkelsen manages.

Fri 14:01 Mikkelsen drops time on the second half of the stage and is 0.9s slower than Latvala at the finish, which puts them 7s apart overall.

"I'm trying to keep up the pressure, but I'm driving around every stone I see on the line.

"I'm trying to save the tyres for the next one as it's really fast, with long corners."

Fri 14:01 Ogier flies in with another stage win, and that brings him past Breen into 10th overall.

Fri 14:01 "We have nothing to lose..." Ogier declares.

Fri 14:03 SS13 times:

1 Ogier (VW) 10m04.9s
2 Latvala (VW) +6.6s
3 Mikkelsen (VW) +7.5s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +11.3s
5 Ostberg (Citroen) +12.3s
6 Meeke (Citroen) +15.8s

Fri 14:05 Overall leaderboard:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +7.5s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +48.5s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +1m00.8s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +1m03.9s
6 Meeke (Citroen) +2m22.0s
7 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +2m34.7s
8 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +2m41.2s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +3m26.4s
10 Ogier (VW) +3m58.4s

Fri 14:06 SS13 summary:

* Everyone takes it pretty easy on the gravel to make sure they have some tyres left for SS14, which is faster and has longer corners.
* Latvala adds another 0.9s to his lead over Mikkelsen, which is now 7.5s.
* Hirvonen takes fourth back from Tanak.
* Ogier fastest again and moves up to 10th.

Fri 14:07 This is a quick-fire loop - Rammen is about to start in a moment, and the first cars will be onto the next stage at Hagfors before the leaders complete Rammen.

Fri 14:21 Prokop finishes Rammen, and as usual he's our weather/stage conditions update man as he's been first on the road. He reports aquaplaning... snow long gone.

Fri 14:21 Breen's splits suggest he might have had a problem. He lost 10th to Ogier on the last stage.

Fri 14:24 Al-Qassimi is asked how his stage went and immediately has to apologise for swearing...

He wasn't impressed with his driving or the broken stage surface.

Khalid Al-QassimiFri 14:26 Al-Qassimi is currently running in 17th place overall, two places behind Prokop and two ahead of Solowow.

Further back, now all the SS13 times are in we can bring you news that Kubica is 22nd overall.

Fri 14:28 Breen says his time loss is due to spinning twice on that stage. He says the illness that has been niggling him this week is affecting him a bit again.

Fri 14:28 Those mistakes won't have cost Breen any ground, as he has nearly two minutes behind his 11th place before the WRC2 drivers.

Fri 14:32 More problems for Kubica - the tracking system shows him stopped again. Meeke has gone past him.

Fri 14:35 For the second time in a few hours, Meeke tells us about a Kubica shunt:

"I think he's just lost it under braking, it was like on the first loop this morning. There are loads of spectators there helping him."

Fri 14:38 Fastest on the stage so far is Henning Solberg, four tenths ahead of Meeke and two seconds ahead of Tidemand.

Fri 14:42 Now for the battle for third place, and it's good news for Ostberg again as he outpaces Hirvonen and extends his advantage to 16s.

Fri 14:43 Ostberg is, again, unhappy at coming across a Kubica incident.

"I just had a really close call with a Formula 1 driver in the stage. Kubica was off the road and there were people on the stage.

"There was nobody to slow me down. That was so close, not just for the car but for the people. That was crazy."

Fri 14:44 Kubica has got back on the road and made it to the end of that stage, but his second excursion in three stages has cost him another 11 minutes. He'll now be outside the top 30.

Fri 14:46 Bit of news from Hyundai: after getting Neuville's car back to service it has confirmed that the Belgian will be able to restart tomorrow.

Fri 14:47 Latvala comes to the finish with some bodywork damage to his VW but shrugs it off.

"Sometimes when you are fighting, you have little moments," he shrugs.

Latvala matches Ostberg's time, but Mikkelsen is 2s slower, so Latvala's lead will grow to 9s.

Fri 14:49 Sounds like Mikkelsen has been thinking that crashing out of second would be a bad idea:

"We're trying to keep the pressure on but not take too many risks. I need to finish this event. We're not taking those very last risks where you hit every stone."

Fri 14:49 Tough position for Mikkelsen - he's never been anywhere near as close to a WRC win, in fact he's never had a podium finish in this series.

Fri 14:50 And while his team-mates fight over the lead, Ogier blows them away by 11s to take another stage win as his comeback charge continues.

Fri 14:54 Ogier is still kicking himself for his mistake this morning, laughing that he managed the toughest day yesterday when running first on the road in changing conditions, then binned it this morning on a stage he was feeling comfortable on.

He declares his target is to get back to sixth place, which is about 1m15s up the road.

Fri 14:55 Meanwhile Prokop, Al-Qassimi and Solowow are already through the Hagfors Sprint stage. to complete the afternoon loop.

Fri 15:03 Solberg is the quickest of the early runners on Hagfors again, but only by a couple of tenths over Evans.

Fri 15:05 Kubica is three seconds slower than his team-mates, and is again using his stage-end interview as a chance to thank spectators for digging him out of snow banks.

Fri 15:06 Meeke finishes the stages with "no heroics" and adds in an only slightly ironic way that he's looking forward to a "long road section at the end of a long day" to get to Karlstad for this evening's superspecial later.

NewspaperFri 15:08 Plenty of crowd noise for Tidemand as he takes to the stage next. He's fallen away from Meeke and is just ahead of stepfather Solberg now.

The Swedes are excited about their Junior WRC champion, he makes it onto the newspaper front pages in this part of the world.

Fri 15:09 In that family battle, Tidemand is now only 2.4s ahead of Solberg, who has clawed back onto his stepson's tail after the puncture and spin that dropped him back.

Fri 15:16 It won't be another stage win for Solberg, as Ostberg beats him by half a second.

That means Ostberg's lead over Hirvonen in the battle for third is up to 18s.

Fri 15:17 Slow time for Latvala... he's 6.2s down on Ostberg.

Fri 15:17 Latvala puts the loss of time down to having taken too much out of his tyres on the full-length stages.

"My tyres are too finished. I lost a lot of time."

Fri 15:18 AUTOSPORT's DAVID EVANS brings weather news as he walks towards service... it's genuinely snowing. He says there is rain around too, but people need to do their jackets up again.

Fri 15:20 Mikkelsen manages to close back to within 4.8s of Latvala. The lead fight is still on!

Fri 15:20 That said, Mikkelsen is still emphasising that he really would like to get a podium...

Fri 15:22 Latvala was right down in 13th place on stage times there.

Fri 15:25 Ogier takes another stage win, giving him a clean sweep for the afternoon.

Fri 15:28 That also brings him to within 2.4s of Evans's ninth place. Remember Ogier was 20th not so long ago after shunting this morning.

Fri 15:29 SS15 times:

1 Ogier (VW) 2m02.9s
2 Ostberg (Citroen) +2.0s
3 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +2.5s
4 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.9s
5 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +3.1s
6 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +3.1s

Fri 15:33 Overall leaderboard:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +4.8s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +42.3s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +1m00.3s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +1m06.5s
6 Meeke (Citroen) +2m28.0s
7 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +2m43.7s
8 Solberg (M-Sport Ford) +2m46.1s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +3m36.7s
10 Ogier (VW) +3m39.1s

Fri 15:35 Summary from SS14/SS15:

* Latvala pulls 9.6s clear of Mikkelsen, only to run out of tyre life on the next stage and see his lead reduce to 4.8s again.

* Ogier takes two more stage wins and brings himself within 2.4s of taking ninth from Evans.

* Kubica loses another 11 minutes with his second off-road trip of the afternoon.

Fri 15:36 Here's the full story of the afternoon:

Rally Sweden Friday pm report

Fri 15:37 Snow turned back to rain. And now it's fully miserable, going dark and very, very wet as the cars prepare for a run south down to Karlstad.

Interestingly, Jari-Matti Latvala was the only driver to go with a no jacket policy at the in control. Surely that's opened the goal for a gag about Phil Collins' third solo album...

Fri 15:38 The drivers are now heading for service, then the end of day press conference, before having a bit of a break before the Karlstad superspecial this evening.

AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live won't be covering the superspecial in full, but we will bring you an update report in our news section afterwards.

And then tomorrow morning we're back from just before 7am for the deciding day of the rally, with the Latvala/Mikkelsen battle still very finely-poised and Ogier set to continue his charge back up the order.



Sat 06:50 Good morning and welcome to the final day of AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live's coverage of Rally Sweden 2014.

Sat 06:54 Our first running of Saturday morning comes from the first running of the 11.9km Hara stage.

That will kick off any minute now. So before it does, we've got chance to give you the briefest of reminders of where exactly we stand at the start of the last day.

Here's the first thing: It's started snowing again...

Sat 07:00 Rally Sweden Friday night summary:

*After rally leader Jari-Matti Latvala had looked like putting a bit of a buffer between himself and team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, building his lead to 4.8s by the end of Friday afternoon, the superspecial closed it back up again.

*Mikkelsen, quickest on the Karlstad blast on Wednesday's event-opening superspecial, replicated that performance to take 1.2s out of his team-mate and leave them just 3.6s apart.

* Sebastien Ogier in the third VW continued his fightback, snatching ninth from Elfyn Evans after SS16.

Any we have cars on the stage...

Sat 07:04 The first man on the stage is Robert Kubica - a man who spent a lot of Friday in the news.

After a troublesome day in which he lost about 20 minutes to Latvala and went off the road more than once, the ex-Formula 1 driver copped an earful from Citroen man Mads Ostberg.

Ostberg wasn't happy with Kubica's actions after his two crashes - and warned that the consequences could have been far more severe than a few seconds lost being baulked...

Sat 07:07 It's tough out there on the Hara. The conditions are making it even more of a challenge, and Kubica - who comes through in one piece - says he was running with extra caution. Which is understandable really.

"It has been very very difficult and very slippery," he says. "We were driving like we were going to the supermarket!"

Solowow is through too, and as if to exemplify Kubica's approach, he's much quicker than the M-Sport Ford man's 8m07.2s - 18-odd seconds, in fact.

Sat 07:08 The conditions are causing Kubica pain - but our man on the ground David Evans is jubilant the snow is back...

Sat 07:12 Al Qassimi loses a heap of time in the first half of the stage and ends it some 43s slower than Solowow.

But then Prokop comes through in 7m17.5s to go quickest of the runners so far, and Breen is also in, four seconds slower.

Sat 07:14 Prokop's time at the top lasts only a short while.

In comes Ogier, and he smashes it. He's the latest to remark about how tough that run was, and is philosophical of his chances of making significant progress up the order today.

"It looks a bit difficult with the conditions. For sure we are not in the best condition to it but...we try."

Sat 07:17 Ogier's time was 6m51.7s for that stage, and now Evans is in. The Welshman lost ninth to Ogier yesterday in the superspecial, and comes through 11.9s slower.

That's not a bad effort at all.

Sat 07:20 Hmm. That's very odd. AUTOSPORT is temporarily stumped by the timing screens - and is then rather disappointed.

It refreshes, and Evans drops to the foot of the screen - two minutes slower than Ogier!

What a bizarre error. And explains why the Welshman isn't thrilled at the stage end.

Sat 07:23 More cars come through. Pontus Tidemand loses 18.5s to Ogier before Henning Solberg goes faster! 6m50.8s for Solberg.

Meeke is in, 6.5s slower than Ogier, and says: "I was really, really cautious."

Sat 07:23 Now Ott Tanak, one of the stars of the rally, is in - and even quicker than Solberg!

Sat 07:25 The top is changing all the time. Hirvonen is through now, and it's a big result for Mikko.

He's 10s quicker than M-Sport stable-mate Tanak's 6m47.8s, which means he more than doubles his gap in the battle for fourth. Impressive.

Sat 07:28 Mads Ostberg bursts Hirvonen's bubble slightly. The two, having swapped cars for 2014, were running less than 20s apart after last night's superspecial. So you might have thought Mikko's mega effort would close that gap.

It doesn't. Mads is through in 6m36.1s.

Sat 07:28 Both Volkswagens are on the stage...and Mikkelsen is quicker at the split!

Sat 07:28 Relief for Evans! The timing screen updates once more, and his original time is reinstated. 7m03.6s and he's seventh on the stage as it stands.

Sat 07:30 Mikkelsen is in. And he's not quickest. Will he drop further behind Latvala now?

He's not bothered about that prospect - he's searching for a maiden WRC podium, let alone win!

"We tried to stay on line and not take any risks," he says. "We drove smart."

Sat 07:32 Mikkelsen might have driven smart, but Latvala's driven superbly!

He goes quickest on Hara of anyone and pushes his lead north of 7s.

Big result for JML, who rounds off the major running (not including Hanninen and Neuville's Hyundais) by commenting, like most, how tough the going was on that.

"There's a lot of snow, you need to be very careful. I had to really, really focus. The beginning was even more difficult.

"I got the information and for sure it was a stressful moment. When it gets faster, it should be better."

Sat 07:36 In comes Hanninen, and he's fifth quickest. That's a good effort, but Hyundai must feel this was an opportunity spurned after the Saturday shunt.

SS18 is underway elsewhere. Kubica and Solowow are on the stage.

Sat 07:42 Overall leaderboard:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +7.5s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +45.5s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +1m06.5s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +1m22.9s
6 Meeke (Citroen) +2m55.8s
7 Solberg (Solberg Ford) +3m04.2s
8 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +3m25.0s
9 Ogier (VW) +3m56.0s
10 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +4m11.8s

SS17 times:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Ostberg (Citroen) +2.5s
3 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +3.8s
4 Mikkelsen (VW) +3.9s
5 Hanninen (Hyundai) +6.0s

Sat 07:44 The 19.26km Torntorp stage means no relief for the drivers. Kubica's nearing its end, with Solowow slower on the splits.

Is Kubica pushing more now? He is a fantastic sight for fans when he starts ringing more out of the Citroen.

Sat 07:46 Speaking of Kubica, he was on sublime form behind the mic as well as the wheel yesterday.

Fortunately, he kept his opinion on WRC Live reporter Colin Clark’s hat to himself...

Sat 07:48 Back on the stage - or rather, the stage end - Kubica is in. 11m45.8s, and that's 7.3s quicker than Solowow as he crosses the penultimate split.

Unless Solowow pulls something special out of the bag, Kubica will be quickest of those two runners. Little victories...

Sat 07:51 And now Solowow finishes, 21.2s slower than Kubica. But the ex-F1 is soon usurped at the top of the times...

...because Al Qassimi goes quicker than Kubica! Four seconds to be a bit more precise.

"Messy," is Khalid's answer of how the stage looks. "There are no lines. The cars cannot turn easy."

Sat 07:52 Wow, Prokop's not holding back. He completes the stage in 11m09.7s, which blows away the runners so far.

Sat 07:57 That's a very, very worried Craig Breen that's just finished the stage 6.7s slower than Prokop.

He is absolutely not happy with his car's handling, but he can't peg whether or not that's down to him, the conditions, or the set-up.

"I'm on a wing and a prayer," says a concerned Breen. "It's really not a nice place to be.

"I'm not sure where we're supposed to be. But I'm trying my best."

Sat 07:58 Ogier's blitzed Prokop's benchmark by 29.5s. That's a huge effort from the champion, but will it elevate him up the order?

His progress is one of this morning's big questions. Which, incidentally, we'll point out when the stage is over.

Sat 07:59 Evans does a solid job on SS18 to finish it 24.5s slower than Ogier.

Sat 08:00 Henning Solberg cries out the thoughts of apparently all the drivers in these conditions:

"I tried to push but I can't! It's not possible!"

Sat 08:01 Solberg, by the way, splits Ogier and Evans. He's 9.9s slower than the VW man.

Sat 08:04 Uh-oh, Meeke fans. He's been passed by two cars on the stage...and we reckon he's stopped. Nightmare.

Sat 08:06 Meanwhile, Tidemand has finished the stage. He's fourth quickest thus far, 1.4s slower than Evans. Tidemand's Ogier's next target.

Sat 08:07 Confirmation that Meeke's had a spin of some kind.

"He was blocking the road and stuck in a ditch on the inside of the corner," says Tanak, who completes the stage in 10m47.8s to go second quickest.

"There was just one spectator so it would be big work for them."

Sat 08:08 Meeke is moving again. That's better news, but he will plummet down the order now.

Sat 08:09 Tanak, meanwhile, has had a good stage - because team-mate and rival for fourth place Mikko Hirvonen has an unspectacular run.

The gap is cut by 2.6s, and there's 13.8s between them now.

Sat 08:09 Stonking run through from Ostberg. He's even quicker than Ogier!

Sat 08:10 Before that, though, Meeke is in...

Sat 08:11 A minor error from Meeke, he reveals, but one that's quite costly.

"I was taking it really, really steady. My inside wheel just caught the bank and it just dropped the front wheel off the road. We just couldn't get out. Eventually one or two spectators came and we dug it out.

"Everything's fine. It's frustrating but you have to learn these things."

Sat 08:12 Drama! Mikkelsen's car looks to be billowing smoke as he finishes the stage. Those at the stage end suggest he's been off. He's out of the car...

Sat 08:14 Well, that drama has been played down by the man himself.

"It should be fine," says an amazingly calm Mikkelsen.

For a second, we were worried it was a rally-ending mechanical problem. We'll have to see, but he's dropped a massive amount of time to Latvala now.

Sat 08:17 Mikkelsen's VW is off to technical control. He's seventh quickest, and Latvala finishes to push his lead north of 30s.

"It looks like he's having a problem," says Latvala. "I hope he carries on. That's the main thing now."

Sat 08:18 Our man David Evans says Mikkelsen's problems were self-inflicted - but it's not definitely rally-ending.

"Broken suspension on front-right came from cutting a corner," he notes. "Obviously scooped a load of snow into the front of the Polo when it went off the road.

"There's always a lot of smoke from these engines when the air intake gets blocked. Provided they get air flowing through the engine quickly, they should be fine - if the oil and water temperatures haven't gone up too much.

Sat 08:21 What a dramatic SS18. The next stage, the long 24km Vargasen run, is underway.

Sat 08:27 Overall leaderboard:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +33.2s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +52.5s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +1m22.1s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +1m35.9s
6 Solberg (Solberg Ford) +3m19.5s
7 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +3m56.3s
8 Ogier (VW) +4m01.9s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +4m41.7s
10 Breen (KelTech Ford) +6m24.3s

Leading SS18 times:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Ogier (VW) +5.4s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +7.0s
4 Hanninen (Hyundai) +12.3s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +13.0s.

Sat 08:30 SS17/18 summary:

If you're just joining us, here are the main talking points from this morning's pair of stages.

* Latvala's lead has grown considerably this morning, first to just over 7s and then to 33.2s after VW team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen hit some snow on SS18, dropping a lot of time and damaging his car.

* Kris Meeke dropped out of sixth with his own SS18 incident, clipping a bank and getting his Citroen stuck in a ditch. He has fallen outside of the top 10.

* Sebastien Ogier's charge has continued. He's up to eighth after Meeke's problems, and has seventh (Pontus Tidemand) just 5s ahead of him.

Sat 08:34 We've had the first few runners complete SS19.

Prokop's 14m35.2s is quickest of the five so far. Breen (+5.9s), Kubica (+34.2s), al Qassimi (+44.5s) and Solowow (+1m00.4s) are the others.

Sat 08:38 The next batch of cars finish the stage. Ogier tops the lot (14m03.4s), with Solberg keeping him honest and going just 1.9s slower.

Evans is a further 24s off the pace, but is doing a cracking job when you think of the more experienced drivers who have made errors on this rally.

Sat 08:42 Tidemand sneaks in ahead of Evans on that stage, beating him by 8.9s.

Sat 08:44 What do the splits tell us? Ostberg is rapid...

...but Mikkelsen is quicker than Latvala! It's almost inconceivable that he'll overturn his team-mate's deficit, but the early signs are his Polo WRC is absolutely fine.

Sat 08:45 Some more times. 14m07.8s for Hirvonen, and that's edged him further clear from Tanak, who is 11s slower than his rally team-mate.

Meeke's through without a repeat of his SS18 dramas, but his more cautious and finishes 17.3s slower than Ogier.

Sat 08:46 Ostberg, wow - that's some effort. He's 10s quicker than Ogier!

Sat 08:47 Mikkelsen's dropped a bit of time at the third split, but he's still very much in the game.

Sat 08:48 Meeke reflects a bit more on that minor shunt on the previous stage. "It's the first time in my career I've spun on the inside of a corner," he says, and it's almost with a smile.

Sat 08:48 Ostberg's time was 13m52.7s. How will the VWs compare?

Sat 08:50 Mikkelsen's in and drops 1.1s to Ostberg. That means there is 18.2s between them, and surely that battle will be the focal point for the rest of the rally.

Sat 08:52 Latvala goes 3.7s quicker than Mikkelsen to further increase his rally lead.

Sat 08:57 Great run from the two Hyundais on that stage. They're slipping under the radar by running after the rally frontrunners, but Neuville goes an impressive second fastest and Juho Hanninen is fifth.

What might have been...

Sat 08:58 Overall leaderboard:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +36.9s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +55.1s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +1m39.9s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +2m04.6s
6 Solberg (Solberg Ford) +3m34.7s
7 Ogier (VW) +4m15.2s
8 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +4m26.6s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +5m20.9s
10 Breen (KelTech Ford) +7m15.3s

Leading SS19 times:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Neuville (Hyundai) +1.9s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +2.6s
4 Mikkelsen (VW) +3.7s
5 Hanninen (Hyundai) +12.3s

Sat 09:04 Brilliant from Neuville, who says the Hyundai's handling needs some work.

When that crew strings together its first proper week/weekend, it will be incredibly fascinating.

Sat 09:13 The next stage has been put back a bit in start time. Which gives us chance for a WRC2 update, seeing as we've neglected that this morning.

Karl Kruuda takes the latest stage win (which is as good an excuse as any to show you his cool livery for this rally), but Yazeed Al-Rajhi leads Jari Ketomaa by more than a minute overall.

Sat 09:18 So, with the final stage of this morning's loop to come, will Latvala consolidate his lead? Will he come unstuck? Can Ostberg overhaul Mikkelsen?

We'll have more of an answer to those questions, and more, before too long. Varmullsasen has been put back to a start time of 09:35 GMT.

Remember, it's the scene of the rally-ending powerstage, so plenty at stake over the 15.87km route.

Sat 09:25 This quiet spell is a good chance to check where Kris Meeke and Robert Kubica are after this morning's various dramas.

Meeke has fallen to 14th, but has a very good shot of climbing back up to 11th in all fairness. Though that's scant consolation after the top six he looked set for at the start of the day.

Kubica, meanwhile, is 26th, one place and two minutes behind Juho Hanninen.

This was Kubica at 7am this morning, showing he's a man of the people by going out and signing plenty of autographs for the hardy souls who stood out and waited for him.

Sat 09:33 We're excited to see how this Mikkelsen/Ostberg fight develops. A lot can happen, and we've seen a bit of everything this week, but you have to say Latvala's looking very good right now.

However, that could change very quickly...

Sat 09:39 Robert Kubica, SS20 is waiting for you. Yes, we expected a start about three minutes ago...

Sat 09:45 For those wondering about WRC2 frontrunner Karl Kruuda's livery, the Estonian's primary sponsor ME3 is a dairy firm producing probiotic drinks - hence the crazy cows on the side of the car.

Sat 09:46 However, on a more serious note - those tricky conditions drivers have been complaining about this morning.

The temperature here is 2.5 degrees and the snow has been melting quickly all morning.

The sheer volume of snow overnight has meant an awful lot of water as it has melted on the stages today.

Sat 09:53 As Kubica finally gets SS20 underway, here's a look at how the rest of the day will shake out (all times GMT).

SS21 Hara (11.32km) - 11:24
SS22 Torntorp (19.26km) - 12:02
SS23 Vargasen (24.63km) - 12:36
SS24 Varmullsasen (15.87km) - 14:13

Sat 09:54 Reports that Kubica's off!

Sat 09:55 Kubica has tagged a bank with the rear, and it looks like the resulting spin ends with him crunching into a tree.

Sat 09:56 Looks like that pre-stage update on the conditions was a bad omen for Kubica...

Sat 09:57 Solowow passes the stricken Ford and it would seem that Kubica's rally is done.

Sat 10:01 Rally Sweden isn't the same without snow.

The drivers certainly like it less when the water's less frozen, and AUTOSPORT's David Evans - a man who usually loves mud - is similarly underwhelmed by the impact it's had:

"There's nothing glorious about this mud... This is the route the rally cars are taking from the in control into the service park.

"Take away the snow and it could be a seen from a very (very, very) wet Safari!"

Sat 10:02 A driver's rally is never finished if the spectators have anything to do with it!

The latest on Kubica is that with the help of the fans, his car's back on the road and he's back on the move.

He's had more than his fair share of outside assistance this week!

Sat 10:02 Big wobble for Ogier, who is on the stage now. He survives, but that heart in mouth!

Sat 10:05 No concerns for Solowow in negotiating Kubica's stricken car. Solowow is the first to finish SS20 and as Kubica follows not far behind, the damage on the front of the car is evident.

Sat 10:06 Kubica reckons a pace note error caused that latest crash, but thinks that windscreen and aesthetics aside, the car is OK.

Sat 10:07 Al-Qassimi finishes the stage and points to the conditions yet again: "It was very difficult. You cannot keep the car in a proper straight line."

Sat 10:08 Some times. Prokop is next (and fastest) through in 9m15.9s. Al-Qassimi is some way back (30-odd seconds) but 2.7s quicker than Solowow.

Sat 10:08 Kubica dropped three and a half minutes in that latest crash.

Sat 10:10 Craig Breen comes in. He's not moaning about that being particularly difficult.

"I found that better than the other stages really," is his view.

Sat 10:13 Breen pipped Prokop's time by 0.1s, and next through is Ogier who makes his point very clear: "Our target is sixth place."

The champion, considerably quicker than Breen, reckons there's nothing to lose as he chases Henning Solberg.

Sat 10:14 Ogier's time of 8m56.1s was almost 20s quicker than Breen.

Now Evans come through, and again does so without drama. More good work from the M-Sport Ford youngster, who slots into second.

Sat 10:15 Solberg shaded Ogier at the first split but lost 8s at the halfway stage.

"I had a spin 5km into the stage. Oy, oy, oy!"

Sat 10:16 That's big for Ogier. Solberg ends up 12.9s slower, which means there's about 26s between them. Exciting stuff as the champion homes in on sixth.

Sat 10:17 Tidemand finishes his run in 9m13.1s, third quickest so far. Meeke, Tanak and Hirvonen are on the stage now.

Sat 10:21 Meeke is in, and is second quickest, 8.7s behind Ogier. Then Hirvonen finishes and extends his gap over Tanak even further.

Sat 10:25 Correction, Tanak is quicker than Hirvonen. 2.2s quicker in fact.

Sat 10:26 Ostberg goes quickest of anyone on SS20, and for those keen on whether he can catch Mikkelsen for second...the VW man is slower through the splits.

Sat 10:28 Mikkelsen loses 1.6s to Ostberg (who completed it in 8m51.4s) on that run.

Sat 10:30 A happy Jari-Matti Latvala can often be a rarity, but in 8m47.2s he's delighted at how his rally his going.

"The car is going really, really well. I'm really enjoying driving the car."

Sat 10:33 Now the Hyundais bring SS20 to an end (for the WRC runners). Hanninen is seventh quickest...

Sat 10:35 ...and Neuville pushes him down to eighth, slotting into fifth himself.

Sat 10:37 Overall leaderboard:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +42.7s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +59.3s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +1m54.2s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +2m16.8s
6 Solberg (Solberg Ford) +3m56.5s
7 Ogier (VW) +4m24.1s
8 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +4m52.5s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +5m47.2s
10 Breen (KelTech Ford) +7m43.9s

Leading SS20 times:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Ostberg (Citroen) +4.2s
3 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.8s
4 Ogier (VW) +8.9s
5 Neuville (Hyundai) +8.9s

Sat 10:50 Big news in the fight for second - not to mention Ogier's bid to overhaul Solberg for sixth - there will be NO SS21.

The delay starting SS20 is to blame. The remaining stages will run to schedule.

Sat 10:50 That means we'll have just over an hour before the afternoon loop - and the conclusion to Rally Sweden. Stick with us, we've got plenty to share!

Sat 11:03 Just joining us? Then you'll need a recap.

Fortunately, we've got just the thing.

First of all, here's our report from Saturday morning:

Latvala extends lead as Mikkelsen slips back

Sat 11:09 Worth reminding you of the timetable for this afternoon - with SS22, 23 and 24 all set to run at the same time as previously stated after the cancellation of SS21.

SS22 Torntorp (19.26km) - 12:02
SS23 Vargasen (24.63km) - 12:36
SS24 Varmullsasen (15.87km) - 14:13

All times GMT

Sat 11:13 So, with under an hour until we get back underway, these are the main talking points as Rally Sweden reaches its conclusion:

* Will Latvala continue his stunning morning form to clinch his second Volkswagen win - 12 months after Ogier earned the Polo WRC its first win?

* Can Mikkelsen fend off the charging Ostberg, or at least claim a maiden WRC podium?

* Does Ogier have time to leapfrog Henning Solberg for sixth in the remaining three stages?

Sat 11:19 One of the best things about Race Centre Live is the ability to share some paddock insight.

So with that in mind, here's an idea the M-Sport set-up looks like in the Rally Sweden service area.

Apparently, David Evans - delighted at his fancy use of a panoramic iPhone shot - is easily impressed by a high number of blue easy-up awnings.



Sat 11:23 After Jean Ragnotti and Giles Panizzi drove the road-inspecting zero cars in Monte Carlo, Sweden has matched round one for fever, wheeling out the first world champion Bjorn Waldergaard and Per Eklund.

Who's coming for Mexico?

Sat 11:25 We can't help but feel that being the first to drive those roads would be a heart-stopper, even for Waldergaard or Eklund. Conditions have been a massive, massive talking point in Sweden.

Sat 11:28 This is the zero car, in case you were wondering.

Would you feel brave tackling Rally Sweden (in the most innocuous way admittedly) in one of those?

Sat 11:33 Since we are, apparently, discussing bizarre ways in which to have a crack at Rally Sweden...this would probably be a bit of fun.

You do get some brilliant finds when you're travelling towards Solberg country, and this Volvo (complete with a roll cage) is right up there for us.

Another favourite of AUTOSPORT was a Lancia with a worrying amount of rust on the boot.

Oh, and if you're thinking "Solberg country? Come on AUTOSPORT, he's Norwegian" - then we can explain that with another picture...

Sat 11:39 Before that picture - a WRC2 update with 30 minutes remaining before the afternoon loop kicks off. It's as you were, with Al-Rajhi, Ketomaa and Kruuda the top three.

The previous stage winner was home rally hero Fredrik Ahlin.

Sat 11:39 Oh, and additional info on that SS21 cancellation - the timetable needed to run to schedule before of planned live TV coverage of the final powerstage.

Sat 11:39 But now, explaining that Solberg country comment.

That picture is from Thursday, when AUTOSPORT decided to do a bit of country hopping.

David Evans went truly international, heading out of the EU and into Norway before coming back to Sweden.

And, as promised, here's a shot from one country to another.

Glamorous, isn't it?

Sat 11:45 Right, we're getting ever closer to the conclusion of what has been a very entertaining Rally Sweden.

If you missed it, here are the main talking points from this morning's quartet of stages:

* Latvala boosts his lead to 40+ seconds as Mikkelsen hits trouble

* Ostberg closes in on second VW in fight for second

* Ogier up to seventh as Meeke crashes out

* Kubica shunts again on the final stage of the AM loop

* SS21 cancelled after SS20 start delay

Sat 11:46 And should you want more detail about all that, then you'll appreciate another little plug for our morning report, which is right here.

Sat 11:58 Remember that pic of the M-Sport set-up in the service park? Here's a look at the "business end" of Hyundai's area, courtesy of David Evans.

Speaking of service, Volkwsagen mechanics were hoovering their side of the park this morning...while AUTOSPORT tucked into some VW scrambled eggs and bacon.

Sat 11:59 We're very hopeful of having some proper cars-on-snow news to in just a matter of minutes.

So if you've stuck with us through this lull - and an abundance of behind-the-scenes pictures - we thank you, and hope you're rewarded with a stonking Rally Sweden conclusion.

Sat 12:03 Just for you, here's a reminder of the top 10 heading into the final three stages:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +42.7s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +59.3s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +1m54.2s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +2m16.8s
6 Solberg (Solberg Ford) +3m56.5s
7 Ogier (VW) +4m24.1s
8 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +4m52.5s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +5m47.2s
10 Breen (KelTech Ford) +7m43.9s

Sat 12:07 Right then. Here we go. Latvala, can he do it? Mikkelsen, can he hold off Ostberg?

Those are the two big questions. Place your bets and enjoy. SS22 is underway.

Sat 12:15 Ready to receive the first car - which is, of course, Robert Kubica. It's a very steady time. We know that because Solowow and Prokop are much, much quicker on the stage.

As Kubica finishes his run, here's VW team boss Jost Capito and team communications ace Stefan Moser waving the rally leader away.

Sat 12:17 It's an 11m17.7s for Kubica. 10m59.4s for Solowow.

To Kubica's credit, he's ploughed on despite spending most of the rally...ploughing off the road.

The latest shunt on SS20 did a fair bit of damage, as we discovered.

Here's a nice shot from the inside of his car, looking out through the battered windscreen.

Sat 12:17 Prokop has stopped on the stage.

Sat 12:20 We're not sure what Prokop's problem is, but we know his engine is still running - and that he's trying to get back going.

Ogier was coming up behind him, and hopefully there's no delay there. Ogier's already at a disadvantage in trying to clinch sixth place following the canning of SS21.

Sat 12:20 Breen and Evans sandwich Ogier on the stage.

Sat 12:23 Stuck in a snow bank was Prokop, and there's no immediate suggestion he'll get back going properly.

Meanwhile, Breen has crossed the finish line - he's 30s quicker than Solowow. And Ogier's in too...

Sat 12:24 Ogier says he lost a bit of time negotiating Prokop. But he's not ruling out overhauling Solberg before the rally's end.

Knowing his time would help us make a decision either way...

Sat 12:24 It's 10m09.6s for Ogier. Solberg was quicker at the first split but has since lost time...

Sat 12:26 Elfyn Evans' latest run is solid. He's just 10.7s slower than Ogier. Not bad at all.

Sat 12:27 Solberg - 27s ahead of Ogier - is nearing the stage end. Tidemand, Meeke and Tanak are on the stage now as well.

Sat 12:27 And here is Henning, arguably the most excitable man in the WRC paddock.

He's dropped 7.2s to Ogier! Just 20.4s between them now. Fascinating.

Sat 12:29 Hirvonen and Ostberg join the fun, as Tidemand and Meeke finish their runs.

Sat 12:30 This is a brilliant find from David Evans: Mads Ostberg's "smile generator" in his car.

It isn't to remind Mads of his favourite fruit.

"It's to make me smile," said the Norwegian.

"Apparently, when the French want you to smile, they say "Bananas"..."

Sat 12:36 Let's fill in some gaps. Tidemand came through in 10m16.9s - just 0.1s slower than Solberg. Meeke slots into second, completing the stage in 10m15.5s.

Tanak (10m24.4s) and Hirvonen (10m19.9s) are the next guys through. That battles has quietened right down.

Sat 12:36 On the stage now are Ostberg and the two VWs. Ostberg's about a second quicker than Mikkelsen at the moment - he'll need a bigger gain than that to nick second.

Sat 12:38 Word from the stage is Prokop - still yet to get going - is attempting to dig his own car out of the snow. Impressive effort.

Sat 12:39 Ostberg - 10m02.9s. This could be a stage win for the Citroen man.

And Mikkelsen loses 5s! That's much better for Ostberg...game on!

Sat 12:40 "No problem, little bit too careful in some places," is Mikkelsen's verdict on that stage.

"Yeah, Mads is putting on the pressure so we need to step it up."

Sat 12:42 Little bit of a moment for Latvala on that stage, and he ends up 0.5s slower than Ostberg. He admits it was a "wake-up call".

Sat 12:46 The Hyundais are in, completing the WRC running for SS22. Hanninen is fifth, Neuville nudges one of the snow banks on the stage. No big drama though.

Sat 12:47 WRC2 drama: Al-Rajhi's had a serious delay, and we reckon there might be a change for the lead...Ketomaa has a great chance to nick it now.

Sat 12:48 Despite that slight brush with the banking for Neuville, he slots in ahead of Hanninen in fifth. Nice work.

Sat 12:49 Al-Rajhi got stuck in a ditch. But there's no serious damage, so he'll fight to the end. Is there a change...

...yes there is! Ketomaa leads WRC2 by 1.1s!

Sat 12:54 Overall leaderboard:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +47.2s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +58.8s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +2m08.7s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +2m37.8s
6 Solberg (Solberg Ford) +4m09.9s
7 Ogier (VW) +4m30.3s
8 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +5m06.0s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +6m04.1s
10 Breen (KelTech Ford) +8m09.7s

Leading SS22 times:

1 Latvala (VW) 10m02.9s
2 Ostberg (Citroen) +0.5s
3 Mikkelsen (VW) +5.0s
4 Ogier (VW) +6.7s
5 Neuville (Hyundai) +8.3s

Sat 12:56 Attention shifts to SS23, then. The penultimate stage. Kubica's in (14m18.2s), with Solowow two and a half minutes behind after an unknown drama.

Al-Qassimi is also through, 19s slower than Kubica.

Sat 13:00 Vargasen, a near-as-dammit 25km route, is a tough way to round out the normal stages before the powerstage finale.

Breen is next through and 13m51.9s briefly puts him top - before Ogier comes through some 34s quicker!

Evans, Solberg and Tidemand are next through. Those keen on that battle for sixth...Solberg has given away several seconds at the halfway point on this stage.

Sat 13:05 Solberg comes through...and he's lost sixth place!

Sat 13:06 Ogier's fightback ultimately proves too much for Solberg, who has fought very gamely. And he's injected genuine passion and enthusiasm into this event, which has been fantastic to see.

Evans has finished, by the way. He was a fraction faster than Breen, about 37s slower than Ogier.

Sat 13:11 Solberg's time was 13m34.0s - which Pontus Tidemand comes through and eclipses by 1.6s. Hopefully Henning's rally doesn't peter out.

Sat 13:12 Tanak, Hirvonen, Ostberg, Mikkelsen and Latvala are the drivers we are waiting for.

The first two shouldn't be too long.

Meanwhile, Mikkelsen has responded to Ostberg's pressure - and is a couple of seconds quicker at the middle split.

Sat 13:13 When we say "the drivers we are waiting for", we mean for the significant positions.

Of course, the Hyundai duo is still running - though mired in the midfield after myriad dramas.

And Neuville's rally's just taken another turn for the worse, as it looks as though he's stopped on stage.

Sat 13:17 Ostberg comes through in 13m18.3s, and Mikkelsen has indeed bolstered his advantage. He finishes the stage in 13m16.1s, which gives him just over 13s heading into the powerstage.

Sat 13:19 A bizarre lack of times for Meeke, Tanak and Hirvonen for a while - but that's now resolved.

Meeke completed the stage in 13m23.3s, good enough for fourth fastest at present - and we think he'll now sneak back into the top 10 after the problems of Al-Qassimi and Solowow.

Tanak and Hirvonen are fifth and seventh fastest respectively, but we await times for Latvala and Hanninen.

Neuville, by the way, had a puncture.

Sat 13:20 Ah, it will not be quite enough for Meeke to nick 10th. He should be 11th when Latvala comes through.

Sat 13:24 Latvala is third quickest on that stage - Hanninen comes through in fifth. Leaderboard ahead of the final stage to follow.

Sat 13:27 Overall leaderboard:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +46.8s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +1m00.6s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +2m25.1s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +2m50.9s
6 Ogier (VW) +4m27.3s
7 Solberg (Solberg Ford) +4m27.4s
8 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +5m21.9s
9 Evans (M-Sport Ford) +6m38.4s
10 Breen (KelTech Ford) +8m45.1s

Leading SS23 times:

1 Ogier (VW) 13m13.5s
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +2.6s
3 Latvala (VW) +3.0s
4 Ostberg (Citroen) +4.8s
5 Hanninen (Hyundai) +7.5s

Sat 13:28 More WRC2 drama...and Ketomaa surely has this in the bag now.

Al-Rajhi has lost a minute on the latest stage, and it sounds like he's had a small roll!

Sat 13:31 SS22/23 main points:

* Latvala cruising to second win for VW and WRC points lead

* Mikkelsen responds to Ostberg pressure as he bids for maiden WRC podium

* Ogier nicks ahead of Solberg for sixth

* WRC2 leader Al-Rajhi crashes twice in two stages to throw away a one-minute lead, Ketomaa set for the win

Sat 13:35 Varmullsasen awaits. The 15.87km powerstage is all that stands between Latvala and the aforementioned glory.

Sat 13:39 Al-Rajhi confirms he had a roll, which looks to have handed WRC2 victory to Ketomaa.

Sat 13:42 Just over half an hour until we have our powerstage.

Rally Sweden has passed rather rapidly...and just as the sun starts to try to make an appearance, too!

Sat 13:56 Remember that stage-topping effort from Mads Ostberg a little earlier? It was his first for Citroen. And the employer is happy.

@CitroenRacing: "That's the first ever fastest time for @MadsOstberg driving a Citroën DS3 #WRC!"

Sat 13:59 We've not planned this, honest - but here's another tweet. This one's courtesy of Petter Solberg - who claimed Historic Rally Sweden victory about an hour ago.

@Petter_Solberg: "Pernilla and I did it again! Victory in the Historic @RallySweden 2nd year in a row - awesome! Join us at the PSRX tent now to celebrate!!!"

AUTOSPORT is wondering how open an invite that is...

Sat 14:03 Ten minutes to Varmullsasen. Who would bet against Latvala rounding off his stellar Saturday with a powerstage bonus?

Sat 14:13 This is what we believe will be the running order for the powerstage:

Kubica; Ogier; Evans; Solberg; Tidemand; Meeke; Tanak; Hirvonen; Ostberg; Mikkelsen; Latvala; Hanninen; Neuville; Solowow.

Al-Qassimi and Breen will run a couple of cars later, between WRC2 runners.

Sat 14:14 Kubica has started the powerstage.

Sat 14:15 Kubica's had another moment! Looks like a brush with a snow bank...good thing this is the last stage. He's had an awful rally.

Sat 14:19 Ogier and Evans are on the stage too.

Sat 14:24 Great comment from Kubica who admits he might have been too cautious after his crash-hit rally, saying sometimes "I was driving like my granny"!

Sat 14:25 Evans has reportedly stopped on stage...

Sat 14:27 "After this mistake [we drove] a perfect rally," reckons Ogier, who has finished the powerstage. Good time, too. He's completed it in 8m40.5s, almost a minute quicker than Kubica!

Sat 14:31 Solberg and Tidemand are nowhere near Ogier's time. Evans has definitely stopped, but we'll have to wait for Henning to find out what's happened.

Sat 14:34 Suggestion for Evans' off is that he lost the rear end through a fast left-hander and went off-road.

Sat 14:39 Meeke's time is just 1.8s slower than Ogier's effort. "I was under instructions to take it easy here," he says.

The Citroen man is shocked at his pace, it seems, but isn't ruing that mistake too much. "I'm delighted I've got through this. It could have been a sixth place but it wasn't to be."

Sat 14:43 Tanak is 5.2s slower than Meeke.

Sat 14:45 Hirvonen pulls a stunning powerstage time out of the bag.

It's a remarkable effort in the final split, and he ends up completing it in 8m39.7s.

Sat 14:48 Amazing from Ostberg. He eclipses Hirvonen's effort by 3.1s! Looks as though Mads will not need to be reminded to smile by his steering wheel.

Sat 14:49 Mikkelsen completes the stage, and that's a very, very well deserved maiden WRC podium for the VW man.

Sat 14:50 A very emotional Andreas Mikkelsen:

"That is absolutely fantastic," he says. "Absolutely amazing. I was really hopeful, this is my home event with all my friends and family here.

"It's more than I could ever have dreamed of."

Sat 14:52 Jari-Matti Latvala wins Rally Sweden!

Sat 14:53 Latvala finishes the powerstage and he's not beating Ostberg to maximum points. But he's not bothered - this is his third Rally Sweden win and he's delighted.

Sat 14:55 What chance of Hyundai racking up its first point of 2014 now?

Sat 15:01 Hanninen's probably got too much to do to get into the top three on the powerstage...but Neuville's first split time is very encouraging.

Sat 15:02 Hanninen finishes the stage in 8m41.3s, which puts him fifth quickest. It's more promise for Hyundai, but no points yet.

Sat 15:03 Neuville's now dropped a lot of time since that first split, so it looks as though it's another week of learning for the Korean manufacturer without any tangible reward.

Sat 15:06 Amazing WRC2 finish. Ketomaa looked to have it in the bag but Kruuda has put in a stonking powerstage so far...

Sat 15:12 Incredible! Kruuda nicks the WRC2 win!

Sat 15:13 How Kruuda has done that is just unfathomable. He has overturned an 18.7-second deficit on one stage. Remarkable.

Sat 15:16 Sensational end to a superb Rally Sweden. We'll have the report for you in just a moment, and then it'll be goodbye from Sweden from Race Centre Live.

Sat 15:20 Rally Sweden result:

1 Latvala (VW)
2 Mikkelsen (VW) +53.6s
3 Ostberg (Citroen) +59.5s
4 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +2m26.9s
5 Tanak (M-Sport Ford) +3m00.5s
6 Ogier (VW) +4m29.9s
7 Solberg (Solberg Ford) +4m47.5s
8 Tidemand (M-Sport Ford) +5m38.2s
9 Breen (KelTech Ford) +8m55.4s
10 Meeke (Citroen) +11m18.0s

Leading powerstage times:

1 Ostberg (Citroen) 8m36.8s
2 Latvala (VW) +1.1s
3 Hirvonen (M-Sport Ford) +2.9s
4 Ogier (VW) +3.7s
5 Hanninen (Hyundai) +4.5s

Sat 15:28 Full Rally Sweden report is available just by clicking here:

Latvala clinches victory in VW one-two

Sat 15:38 Thank you very much for joining us for our coverage of Rally Sweden.

AUTOSPORT Race Centre Live will return for the Daytona 500, while AUTOSPORT Live will bring you comprehensive coverage of the next pre-season Formula 1 test in Bahrain.



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