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Jari-Matti Latvala closes on Rally Sweden victory

Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford, Sweden 2012Jari-Matti Latvala looks certain of Rally Sweden victory after Mikko Hirvonen lost pace on the final morning.

Citroen driver Hirvonen had struggled to make his tyres last as long as his Ford rival yesterday, but a set-up change today aimed at curing that issue ended up leaving the Finn less confident in his DS3. That allowed Latvala to stride away and build a 35.6-second lead, as Hirvonen decided to focus on retaining second place instead.

The battle for third place remains wide open, with Mads Ostberg (Adapta Ford) closing in on Petter Solberg's factory Ford throughout the loop. With three stages to go, the gap is down to 4.9s.

Evgeny Novikov (M-Sport Ford) continued to charge on today's first stage to make sure he stayed out of Sebastien Loeb's reach as the Citroen driver took sixth from Henning Solberg's Go Fast Ford. With 41s between Novikov and Loeb going into the final loop, the champion reckons sixth will be his limit this weekend.

After losing time yesterday when he accidentally left a radiator blank on his Mini, Patrik Sandell made sure he pulled away from Martin Prokop (Czech Ford) this morning to make his eighth place feel more secure.

Leading positions after SS21:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car        Time/Gap
 1.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford          2h54m12.8s
 2.  Mikko Hirvonen      Citroen          + 35.6s
 3.  Petter Solberg      Ford             + 58.8s
 4.  Mads Ostberg        Adapta Ford    + 1m03.7s
 5.  Evgeny Novikov      M-Sport Ford   + 2m36.5s
 6.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen        + 3m17.9s
 7.  Henning Solberg     Go Fast Ford   + 3m38.6s
 8.  Patrik Sandell      Mini           + 5m04.6s
 9.  Martin Prokop       Czech Ford     + 5m28.5s
10.  Eyvind Brynildsen   Adapta Ford    + 5m59.1s
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