Hirvonen fends off Loeb after SS12

Mikko Hirvonen continues to lead the Rally Sweden halfway through day two, although Sebastien Loeb has narrowed the gap to just four seconds

Hirvonen fends off Loeb after SS12

The Finn pulled away first thing this morning, winning SS9 by 4s over Loeb, but the champion fought back with fastest times on the next three stages. That pace, plus Hirvonen stalling at the start of the Hagfors Sprint stage, means the gap has come down from 10.8s to 4.2s.

Dani Sordo is now out of touch with the leaders after an error on SS11 left his Citroen with rear bodywork damage. But fourth-placed Jari-Matti Latvala was unable to capitalise on the Spaniard's problem as the Ford number one has continued to struggle for pace and confidence, and is 22s behind his rival.

Sebastien Ogier was bemused to finish SS9 with the rear spoiler missing from his Citroen Junior C4, but shrugged the problem off and remains a comfortable fifth ahead of Henning Solberg (Stobart Ford). In the battle for seventh, Adapta Subaru driver Mads Ostberg has edged away from Stobart's Matthew Wilson.

Petter Solberg has got back to the fringe of the top ten following his mistakes earlier in the rally, while Marcus Gronholm finally showed his true pace by setting the second quickest time on Sagen - a stage he likes so much, he has named a restaurant after it.

"On the splits I was similar to Loeb, but the rhythm was not there," said Gronholm, who is still only 24th on the leaderboard due to yesterday's electrical glitch. "But okay, this was the best stage for me. It's a nice flowing road and it's nice to drive."

Kimi Raikkonen remains outside the top 40, and suffered a further delay with a trip into a snow bank on SS10.

"The first stage was very difficult and we didn't have good pace notes. Then the next stage was very good until the last hairpin, when I stalled the engine and slid into a snow bank," he explained. "Otherwise it would have been a good time."

P-G Andersson has maintained his huge S2000 lead, although his uninterrupted run of stage wins was ended by Janne Tuohino this morning. Tuohino is still second in class, but is behind fellow Ford Fiesta driver Andreas Mikkelsen - who is not registered for S2000 points - in the overall results.

Patrik Flodin is still on course for Production victory, the chasing Anders Grondal having lost a little time when snow interfered with his Subaru's engine following an error this morning.

Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 1h41m15.4s 2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 4.2s 3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 35.9s 4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 57.1s 5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 1m59.5s 6. Henning Solberg Ford + 2m57.9s 7. Mads Ostberg Subaru + 4m34.5s 8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 4m43.2s 9. P-G Andersson Skoda + 6m50.0s 10. Andreas Mikkelsen Ford + 7m48.8s 
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Hirvonen leads into Sweden day two

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