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Ostberg holds lead as Hirvonen closes

Mads Ostberg, Stobart Ford, Sweden 2011Mads Ostberg continues to lead Rally Sweden at the end of day one, but his advantage over Mikko Hirvonen is down to 14.8 seconds.

Stobart Ford driver Ostberg had stretched his lead to 32s by setting the joint fastest time on the Vargasen stage, the first of this afternoon's loop.

He was a little slower on the following Likenas test - and then struggled through Lovhaugen with severe visibility issues after his car's lightpod was dislodged early on.

"I'm very happy with that, but very early on this stage there was a big dip in the road, and the lightpods came off," said Ostberg.

"It's been a nightmare, no lights and the thing that's supposed to give you light is blocking your view. I tried pushing but I couldn't see a damn thing, so I should be happy to be here.

"I wouldn't have believed I would be leading at all, so I must say it's been a good day, but I must say I'm a little bit disapointed by this.

"I knew I had to have a big lead because tomorrow I will be first on the road. Now I've lost this time it will be difficult."

Hirvonen suspected that he would find the going tough in second on the road as well - although with no more snow expected to fall, conditions should not be anywhere near as difficult for those early in the Saturday running order as they were this morning.

Third-placed Petter Solberg is nearly a minute behind Ostberg in his Citroen, having struggled slightly with a misted-up windscreen today.

His elder brother Henning Solberg briefly got up to fourth after a strong run in the second Stobart car, but was given a jump-start penalty on SS6 and lost the place to works Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala.

Sebastien Ogier has found better form this afternoon and gave the Citroen DS3 its first stage win on Likenas, bringing him up to sixth.

But his world champion team-mate Sebastien Loeb's tough day got even worse when he sustained a puncture on today's final stage and lost another minute, leaving him a massive 2m48s off the lead.

"It was getting better in the last stages. Then I had a puncture, I don't know why, in the middle of the road," said Loeb. "I didn't touch anything. We had to do 15 kilometres like that and we lost a lot of time again."

With less snow on the stages this afternoon the leading S2000 cars have not repeated their giant-killing times, but Skoda Fabia duo Patrik Sandell and Eyvind Brynildsen are still seventh and eighth overall.

Kimi Raikkonen (Ice 1 Citroen) looked set to finish the day in the top 10 before a spin and a puncture put him down to 11th, just ahead of the recovering P-G Andersson's Ford.

In the Production class, an early error by Patrik Flodin gave Anders Grondal a one-minute lead at first, but the charging Flodin has got the gap down to 22s.

Pos  Driver              Car        Time/Gap
 1.  Mads Ostberg        Ford     1h17m21.2s
 2.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford        + 14.8s
 3.  Petter Solberg      Citroen     + 57.4s
 4.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford      + 1m10.0s
 5.  Henning Solberg     Ford      + 1m20.3s
 6.  Sebastien Ogier     Citroen   + 1m21.6s
 7.  Patrik Sandell      Skoda     + 2m35.1s
 8.  Eyvind Brynildsen   Skoda     + 2m43.5s
 9.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen   + 2m48.4s
10.  Khalid Al Qassimi   Ford      + 4m12.4s
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