Thierry Neuville ended Friday on Acropolis Rally Greece with a load of 2.8 seconds, having won one of the day’s five stages.
He was fastest on Loutraki, the day’s opener, as those ahead of him in the running order suffered from the road cleaning effect.
Kalle Rovanperä slashed his lead down to two seconds by winning Pissia, then Neuville extended it on the repeat pass of Loutraki by going second fastest to Sébastien Ogier.
On the 13.06-mile Livadia stage an immense full commitment drive from Neuville meant he added five seconds to his lead, aided by going “all in” with four soft tires aboard his Hyundai.
But he was beaten to the stage win by an even larger 5.9 seconds by Ott Tänak. The M-Sport driver had water pump drama earlier in the day and copped several minutes of penalties for being late to time control, while team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet was out of the rally at the very start of the day with the same issue, and had an advantagous road positon by being among the WRC2 runners.
Tänak used his road positon to his benefit again in the 17.6 miles of Elatia, winning the stage by 4.9s over Ogier and 8.2s over Elfyn Evans who both finished the day missing half of their rear wings and not knowing why.
Neuville felt he had something broken on the rear of his car through the stage and was 4.6s slower than Ogier, meaning his lead was cut to 2.8s.
Evans moved into fourth overall past Lappi, who had been driving with a radiator leak for several stages.
In WRC2, Yohan Rossel inherited the lead from Adrien Fourmaux who was forced to stop and change a puncture on Friday’s final stage.
Rossel’s lead is 6.8s over Gus Greensmith, with Marco Bulacia third and Sami Pajari fourth.