Finland's Mikko Hirvonen took charge of the season-opening Sweden Rally yesterday while debutant Kimi Raikkonen lost 25 minutes after becoming stuck in a snow bank.

Ford's Hirvonen, who lost the title to six-times champion Sebastien Loeb by a point last season, won three stages in the day after his French rival had seized the first two on the ice and snow covered roads around Karlstad.

Hirvonen held a 6.2s advantage over Loeb's Citroen ahead of Saturday's penultimate day, with Dani Sordo third after winning Friday's super-special first stage.

Raikkonen, making his world rally championship debut after switching from Formula One, was more than 30 minutes behind the leader following an accident near the end of stage six.