Citroen Junior Team's Sebastien Ogier leads Rally New Zealand at the end of the second day, however, it was Sebastien Loeb that starred and he now lies perfectly placed to seize top spot on the final leg.
From his overnight starting position of seventh, Loeb drove devastatingly fast through Saturday's eight special stages, averaging at least one second per kilometre better than any other driver during the day's 155.62 competitive kilometres.
Loeb took six stage victories in his Citroen C4 WRC and cut the overnight deficit from 1m 19s to end the day a scant 5.3 seconds adrift of P1.
The six-time world champion rated it his best performance yet: "I think this was my greatest rally day. It was incredible," Loeb confirmed. "We drove today flat-out everywhere and in every stage. We pushed hard all day and had some very, very good times and now we are second. I knew with my road position I could take time, so overall today was not so bad."
Ogier was also happy despite not being able to match Loeb's pace. "Today was very good. Our car was very strong, and we are still in the lead," said the former Junior World Rally champion.
Overnight leader Petter Solberg meanwhile remains confident of a podium position in his privately-entered Citroen C4 WRC car after spending the day at the top of the running order, ahead of BP Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala and Ogier.
"I am 'on it', I can tell you! I am using all of the road and then more! I am going to keep trying to get the times as best as I can, so I will try my hardest and see how it goes," said Solberg, who is fifth, 53.6 seconds behind Ogier, but like Loeb today, has the advantage of a better-swept road for the rally's final four stages in Raglan.
Latvala holds third place going into the rally's final day, 33.2 seconds behind Loeb while Loeb's Citroen works team-mate Dani Sordo is fourth.
"The roads were more difficult to drive than I expected," Latvala said. "They were much more slippery. When we made the recce the surface was damp, but today it was totally dry and the grip was different. My weakness came on the middle stage of each loop because my pace notes weren't precise enough and I lost time. I opted to take two spare tyres this afternoon because I was concerned about tyre wear but it was a mistake. The extra weight meant the rear of the car didn't handle so well.