Juho Hanninen holds a 26.8-second lead over seven-time event winner Freddy Loix in the Ypres Rally after Andreas Mikkelsen went off the road on the opening evening.
Skoda driver Hanninen has led the event, round six of the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, from the outset, steadily edging away from Mikkelsen (Skoda UK) through the opening stages.
The gap was up to 11s before Mikkelsen slid into a ditch on stage five, dropping a minute and falling to fifth place. He rejoined in front of Loix, to the frustration of the Belgian, who felt running in Mikkelsen's wake cost him several seconds. Ypres is Loix's first IRC appearance of the season, and after several seasons in Skodas, he is driving the 2C-run Peugeot that he is using in France this year.
Loix's countryman Pieter Tsjoen (Wevers Skoda) is now up to third, while Mikkelsen has already reclaimed fourth place from Patrik Flodin after the Solberg Ford overshot a corner on the evening's final stage.
The rally will be decided over a mammoth Saturday itinerary that features 12 stages running across 12 hours from mid-morning to night time.
Leading positions after SS6: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Juho Hanninen Skoda 46m42.3s 2. Freddy Loix 2C Peugeot + 26.8s 3. Pieter Tsjoen Wevers Skoda + 1m00.6s 4. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK + 1m14.0s 5. Patrik Flodin Solberg Ford + 1m29.0s 6. Michal Solowow Cersanit Peugeot + 1m52.1s 7. Mathias Viaene Atlantic Peugeot + 2m12.6s 8. Oleksandr Saliuk Ukraine Ford + 2m25.4s 9. Robert Barrable CA1 Skoda + 3m03.2s 10. Andreas Aigner Stohl Subaru + 3m19.1s