Peugeot Belgium driver Nicolas Vouilloz is tantalisingly close to claiming his inaugural IRC drivers' title, after finishing day two of the Rallye du Valais on Friday in the lead.
Vouilloz claimed the rally lead after the opening 40-kilometre stage of the day, which he won by a remarkable 14.1 seconds.
Victory on the Rallye du Valais, which the Frenchman also claimed last year, would automatically make him champion, no matter where everybody else finishes.
"I'm very happy with today and we've had no problems," he reflected. "On the last stage we set a fastest time and the reason why is very simple: the stage was all downhill, and seeing as I have competed in downhill mountain biking for so long, this was second nature for me!
"Seriously though, tonight I need to think hard about whether or not to continue to push or slow down a little bit. Of course I'd love to win the rally but the main focus now is obviously on the championship."
Second at the end of day two was Vouilloz's team-mate Freddy Loix, who won three stages to offer the Frenchman a big challenge for the lead.
The Belgian finished up only 11.7 seconds behind, setting the scene for a thrilling battle for supremacy within the Peugeot Belgium rankings on Saturday. If it is necessary to gain the drivers' title though, Peugeot Belgium are well-placed to play a team game in order to ensure that Vouilloz wins.
While it was a great day for Peugeot, it was less positive for Abarth. Umberto Scandola, who led after the opening day in his factory Grande Punto, retired on SS5 after ripping a wheel off. Scandola was cutting a fifth-gear corner, when a hidden rock on the inside of the bend broke the steering arm, making it impossible for the talented young Italian to finish the stage.
His team-mate and title contender Giandomenico Basso needs to finish in the top two of this event to stand any chance at all of winning this year's IRC drivers' title, but his hopes were dealt a blow by two punctures. The second puncture, on SS6, cost him nearly two minutes.
The Italian, who is also suffering from a wrist injury, found that the set-up of his Grande Punto was not entirely to his liking in the afternoon but he is determined not to give up – even though he is now down in seventh.