Sébastien Ogier kept Hayden Paddon at bay during today’s second leg of Rally Sweden to take a seemingly secure lead into the final day.

With just the live live TV Power Stage remaining tomorrow Oggier’s 17.1 second advantage over the Kiwi should be enough to give him his second win of the season.

Up to 10cm of snow filled the forests overnight and the slippery surface was bad news for road opener Ogier. He ploughed a clean line which Paddon, starting six cars further back, took advantage of to pile on the pressure.

Although Ogier won the opening speed test to widen the margin to more than half a minute, the snow was deeper in the following test and Paddon cut the deficit to 8.8sec on his debut in Hyundai’s 2016-specification i20.

Despite a heart-stopping sideways slide in the penultimate stage, Ogier regained vital seconds in the final three tests while Paddon managed the wear on his studded Michelin tyres as gravel reappeared on the roads.
Mads Østberg lost third in the opening stage after flirting with a ditch, but quickly reasserted himself in the final podium place in his Ford Fiesta RS, 25.2sec behind Paddon.

Andreas Mikkelsen briefly demoted his fellow Norwegian, but the Volkswagen Polo R pilot lost any realistic chance of a top three finish when he entered a corner too fast courtesy of an over-optimistic pace note and spun. He was 25.1sec behind Østberg.

Although he was uncomfortable on frozen gravel sections, Estonia’s Ott Tänak was fifth in another Fiesta RS, while a front left puncture slowed Dani Sordo and the Spanish i20 driver fell back from the podium battle into sixth.

Henning Solberg was seventh, despite losing a handful of seconds after stalling the engine of his Fiesta RS at a stage start. He is under pressure from Craig Breen, who was only 3.6sec behind after a strong debut in Citroën’s DS 3. WRC 2 leader Elfyn Evans and second-placed Pontus Tidemand completed the leaderboard.

Jari-Matti Latvala won two stages as he climbed to 27th following his disastrous opening leg. The only major retirements were Eric Camilli, who rolled his Fiesta RS heavily, and Yazeed Al Rajhi, who suffered broken steering after hitting a rock.

Sunday’s final leg comprises just the 15.87km Värmullsåsen Power Stage before the afternoon finish in Karlstad.

Speaking after the finish Ogier said, “We gave absolutely everything today, from the first metre to the last. We knew that we would lose a lot of time on some stages, as we had to open the route after the overnight snowfall, meaning we had to sweep the roads for those behind us. As we obviously wanted to take our lead into tomorrow, there was no time for tactics. Apart from one moment on the second pass of ‘Vargåsen’, we did not give a millimetre and had an almost perfect day. To go into tomorrow’s closing Power Stage with a lead is obviously good news. We took a big step towards our third victory in Sweden today.”