Day 2 am: Gronholm ahead

The lead has changed yet again in the Swedish Rally, with Marcus Gronholm overcoming Petter Solberg on SS11 and moving back in front by just 0.1s. Snow has now begun to fall at last, causing further difficulties for the drivers

Day 2 am: Gronholm ahead

Competitors running first on the road through the late morning stages have been forced to sweep away the soft, freshly laid snow, giving the rally leaders a faster passage. The surface is treacherous however, and drivers have found that if they venture even slightly off line they risk having an accident, as there are still no snow banks to lean on. Another problem is that frequent corner cutting is dragging rocks into the road. The wheels and tyres on Solberg's Subaru Impreza took a battering on the Lejen stage, while Francois Duval dropped out of the top ten after having to stop and change a damaged wheel.

Gronholm had earlier lost the lead after a superb performance by Solberg on SS9, but the Finn immediately responded and went fastest on both the Fredriksberg and Lejen stages. He clipped 1.2s off Solberg's advantage on SS10, and then went 6.3s faster on SS11 - putting him back in front once more. This is the fifth change of lead on the rally, and the third time that the lead margin has been less 0.3s.

"Back again!" said Gronholm after realising he had overhauled Solberg. "It's really a winter road now, it's how I like it.

"I'm trying and I desperately want to win, but it's difficult. I love this rally and I got my first win here in 2000, so it has a special place in my heart."

Sebastien Loeb has been slowly dropping away from the two leaders this morning but remains secure in third, while Gigi Galli - who fell to sixth in his Mitsubishi after spinning and stalling on Fredriksberg - is back to fourth after problems for Duval and Markko Martin. Duval had punctures on both SS10 and 11, the second forcing him to stop and change his left front wheel. Over four minutes were lost and he slipped from fourth to 17th.

Martin felt much happier with his Peugeot 307 on this morning's first stages but was in trouble again on SS11 and unsure as to the cause of the problem.

"Something broke, maybe in the differential," he said. "The car was undriveable. It was nearly impossible to stay on the road."

The battle for the final points positions is very intense, as all the drivers in this gaggle struggled because of their early positions in the running order. Toni Gardemeister completed the morning in sixth place, but found the soft snow covering on SS11 very tricky.

"Too many moments all the time," he said. "I was very, very close many times to going off. I was scared sometimes, it was hard."

His Ford team-mate Henning Solberg is seventh ahead of Skoda's Mattias Ekstrom. It was a difficult morning for the Fabia drivers, with continued launch control problems often causing them to stall at stage starts, and Jani Tuohino's SS11 spin dropping him outside the top ten. DTM champion Ekstrom was reasonably content with his performance so far but felt there was more to come.

"Sometimes I'm happy with myself and sometimes I do stupid mistakes which I should not do," he said.

Subaru's Chris Atkinson has been one of the stars of the morning - getting more and more confident on snow and setting fourth quickest time on SS11. His lowly position on the running order helped a little, but it is still an impressive performance. Atkinson's speed through Lejen brought him into the top ten, and to within 20s of the points scoring positions.

Toshi Arai continues to control the Production class, now over a minute ahead of nearest rival Aki Teiskonen with Mark Higgins having retired after an off on SS9.

Ex-Subaru driver Mikko Hirvonen is having a miserable rally in his privateer Ford Focus. He lost ground yesterday after hitting a rock and damaging a wheel, then did exactly the same on SS11 today - ironically at the same spot on the stage where he had an identical incident on last year's rally.

Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot 307) 1h48m03.7s
Petter Solberg (Subaru Impreza) 1h48m03.8s
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Xsara) 1h48m23.7s
Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi Lancer) 1h49m36.3s
Markko Martin (Peugeot 307) 1h49m39.1s
Toni Gardemeister (Ford Focus) 1h50m44.1s
Henning Solberg (Ford Focus) 1h50m46.3s
Mattias Ekstrom (Skoda Fabia) 1h50m49.5s
Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi Lancer) 1h50m53.1s
Chris Atkinson (Subaru Impreza) 1h51m10.4s

Janne Tuohino (Skoda Fabia) 1h51m14.2s
Daniel Carlsson (Peugeot 307) 1h51m19.3s
Roman Kresta (Ford Focus) 1h51m24.8s
Jani Paasonen (Skoda Fabia) 1h51m51.5s
Anthony Warmbold (Ford Focus) 1h52m43.3s
Stephane Sarrazin (Subaru Impreza) 1h53m31.8s
Francois Duval (Citroen Xsara) 1h53m44.3s

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