Jari-Matti Latvala will take a 23-second lead into the final day of Rally Sweden after managing tyre wear through the Saturday afternoon stages.
With decreasing amounts of snow in places causing tyres to lose their studs, most lead drivers were opting to back off on some stages to save tyre life for others. This led to some fluctuations in pace, but Latvala (Ford) handled the situation well and completed the day with a comfortable cushion over Citroen rival Mikko Hirvonen.
Petter Solberg remains third in the other works Ford. Adapta Ford driver Mads Ostberg has closed in, but rued a missed opportunity when his engine switched into launch mode on SS17, causing it to cut for several hundred metres before he could reset the electrics.
Sebastien Loeb's eventful rally took another twist when he picked up a puncture on SS17. The Citroen driver had just taken sixth from Henning Solberg's Go Fast Ford, fell back to share the spot with the Norwegian, then reclaimed it on the final stage. Evgeny Novikov is next in Loeb's sights, but the M-Sport Ford man has been pushing hard today and is still 44.4s clear.
In the best of the remaining Minis, Patrik Sandell escaped a scare on SS17 when he forgot to remove a protective cover used on road sections from the car and caused it to overheat. Although stopping to remove it cost him some time, he was able to keep his eighth place.
Leading positions after SS18:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford 2h30m08.0s
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 23.0s
3. Petter Solberg Ford + 51.4s
4. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 1m02.5s
5. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford + 2m13.1s
6. Henning Solberg Go Fast Ford + 2m57.5s
7. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 3m02.4s
8. Patrik Sandell Mini + 4m31.8s
9. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 4m34.4s
10. Eyvind Brynildsen Adapta Ford + 5m08.7s