Ford have cemented their one-two formation in the Rally Japan, with Mikko Hirvonen still holding a comfortable lead, and Jari-Matti Latvala pulling away from Sebastien Loeb in second place.
With Hirvonen losing a little time due to running first on the road (and having brushed a barrier in SS11), and Latvala winning the Kamuycep stage by a healthy margin, the gap between the two Fords is now down to 16.9 seconds - although Hirvonen knows that Latvala is working to support his title bid this weekend.
"I just want to make sure I get through the stages without any problems," said Hirvonen, who is 14 points behind Loeb with only Japan and the Rally GB remaining.
Latvala's improved pace today has allowed him to pull 16.7 seconds clear of Loeb. Third place will secure the Citroen driver's fifth straight world championship, though, so Loeb was not too concerned about Latvala edging away.
"He was really fast, but there's no need for me to be second - third place is okay for me," he said. "It's more important for me to control Petter (Solberg) behind. It will be difficult because he's also going fast today, but we will see.
"The most important thing at the moment is to try to secure my title. It's too risky for me to try to catch Jari-Matti now."
Subaru's Petter Solberg looked like he might be able to challenge Loeb after he set the fastest time in the Nikara stage, but the Citroen driver then pulled away in the following stages. Nevertheless, Solberg was delighted with Subaru's gains today.
"I felt there was something going on in there, and some of the things they did in the service last night made it much easier to drive," he said after winning SS12. "I'm very happy. I knew it went well, but not quite as well as that."
Chris Atkinson has fallen away from his teammate in fifth, with Suzuki's Per-Gunnar Andersson giving chase in sixth position.
After his very promising start to the event Matthew Wilson (Stobart Ford) lost touch with this battle when he struggled for speed in the long Nikara and Kamuycep stages, losing over 40 seconds to the leaders in both.
"We'd like to be back to where we were yesterday, but it's a difficult day today," rued Wilson.
That loss of pace dropped him to seventh, as Munchi's Ford driver Henning Solberg showed better form today and moved past both Toni Gardemeister (Suzuki) and Wilson, winning SS14 along the way.
Leading positions after SS14:
Pos Driver Car Time
1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 1h31:10.5
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 16.9
3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 33.6
4. Petter Solberg Subaru + 1:10.6
5. Chris Atkinson Subaru + 1:31.6
6. Per-Gunnar Andersson Suzuki + 1:53.7
7. Henning Solberg Ford + 2:19.7
8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 2:41.2
9. Toni Gardemeister Suzuki + 2:52.9
10. Federico Villagra Ford + 6:21.1