Sweden Rally - Ogier pulls clear of field

Sebastien Ogier is pulling away in the Rally Sweden lead after the first loop of Friday morning stages.

Sweden Rally - Ogier pulls clear of field

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Sebastien Ogier

Initially the Volkswagen driver was in a tight battle with team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Loeb's Citroen. Just one second covered the trio at the end of Lesjofors, the morning's opener.

But after that, Ogier began to move clear. A string of fastest stage times put him 10.1 seconds after SS4.

Latvala fell back to third with a disappointing time on SS3, before getting within 0.8 seconds as he regained confidence on the Vargasen stage.

Mads Ostberg should be a factor in the lead battle given his pace on the stages. But penalties for arriving late at SS3 having had to try and rectify overheating problems on the road section mean he is 40 seconds back in sixth place.

Top Ford is, remarkably, World Rally Car debutant Pontus Tidemand. The WRC Academy graduate is just ahead of Qatar M-Sport pair Evgeny Novikov and Ostberg in fourth.

Loeb denied that his road position - 10th compared to Ogier's 17th - had any bearing on the morning's stages.

"I don't think this makes any difference, he is just fastest," said Loeb.

"We will see more on the second loop this afternoon, but I think it's almost the same for us.

"I feel happy with the morning. In a lot of places I have felt really comfortable with the car, but there are still a few places where I am a little bit more nervous and a bit more cautious."

Ogier admitted he was delighted with the start to the event.

"I like the road here," said the Frenchman, "the stages are really good fun. We had no problems this morning, just driving how I like.

"The road is OK, sometimes there is more snow, but everything is well."

The morning saw plenty of incidents. The most significant was Mikko Hirvonen crashing his Citroen on the first stage of the morning and losing 20 minutes stuck off the road.

Jarkko Nikara, Matthew Wilson and Khalid Al-Qassimi have also dropped several minutes with excursions, Wilson and Al-Qassimi having crashed at the same spot on SS2.

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