Sebastien Loeb has continued to edge away from the field in the Rally Finland, but Mikko Hirvonen is keeping the world champion within sight after the first day of the event.
The duo will start Saturday's stages 14.4 seconds apart, with Hirvonen having interrupted Loeb's run of stage victories by going quickest through SS8. The Citroen driver then won the next three stages, but with his Ford rival only fractionally slower in the stages, Loeb remains under pressure.
Nearly a minute behind Loeb, Stobart Ford duo Henning Solberg and Gigi Galli have moved up to third and fourth as others stumbled.
Semi-works Citroen driver Urmo Aava's highly impressive run - which had seen him holding third place in the morning - ended when he crashed near the end of SS9, although he is set to rejoin under Superally rules tomorrow. His factory counterpart Dani Sordo made a less costly mistake when he had a spin in the preceding stage, but he managed to escape damage and is now fifth behind the two Stobart cars.
With privateer Ford driver Andreas Mikkelsen having also crashed out, the works Subarus now hold distant sixth and seventh positions - Petter Solberg leading Chris Atkinson by four seconds.
A similarly tight battle is continuing for the final points scoring position. Suzuki's Per-Gunnar Andersson currently occupies eighth, but just seven seconds cover Andersson, Ford privateer Matti Rantanen and Toni Gardemeister in the second Suzuki.
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Loeb Citroen 1h04:57.9 2. Hirvonen Ford + 14.4 3. H Solberg Ford + 53.1 4. Galli Ford + 56.2 5. Sordo Citroen + 1:05.4 6. P Solberg Subaru + 1:37.8 7. Atkinson Subaru + 1:41.1 8. Andersson Suzuki + 2:20.4 9. Rantanen Ford + 2:26.6 10. Gardemeister Suzuki + 2:27.2