Thierry Neuville holds a dominant lead over Esapekka Lappi at the end of the second full day of Rally Italy Sardinia, after a dramatic day which claimed erstwhile rally leader Sébastien Ogier.
It was a strange day of sorts for Neuville, who started Saturday in third and 17.4 seconds off the lead.
But after chipping away as the day progressed, it all paid off when Ogier crashed on SS14. Coupled to a strong stage time, Neuville was able to jump from third to first in one go.
As he crossed the line to end the day, Neuville held a solid 36.4s ahead of team-mate Lappi going into the final day of action.
“I am relieved to be at the finish,” the rally leader explained.
“It was a tough day out there but the feeling was getting better and better with the car. We learned a lot today, that’s important, but it’s still not always perfect yet and we can still improve.
“Tomorrow is a short but tricky day – we need to have a clever drive through and try to bring home the one-two for the team.”
Lappi – despite losing out on the chance to lead the rally when Ogier crashed – was relatively satisfied with his day as he looks on track to take a third consecutive podium finish.
Further back, Kalle Rovanperä is on course for a very lonely third. He sits 1m14.3s off Lappi ahead with Elfyn Evans a distant 3m45.8s behind him in fourth.
But Evans will be pleased to see the service park on Saturday night after a day where his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 refused to play ball after taking too much water onboard during the morning loop.
“It’s been a pretty rough day today. Obviously now the gap is not so comfortable but it’s still pretty big,” he said.
“The plan is to get through safely and have a look at some powerstage points tomorrow.”
Dani Sordo is fifth.
Back in WRC2 it’s Adrien Fourmaux who holds a commanding lead with one day remaining.
The M-Sport driver took the lead on SS9 and put in a dominant drive throughout the day’s remaining stages to grow that lead even further.
He holds a 25.7s advantage over Andreas Mikkelsen with Teemu Suninen in third.