Citroen privateer Petter Solberg heads the pack in Finland following the opening loop this morning, having regained his overnight lead in SS4, when BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT man Mikko Hirvonen crashed out.
Solberg, who was quickest in SS1 yesterday evening, began the day by setting the fourth best time in Urria 1. Consequently he dropped down to third. However he hauled himself back up to second in SS3, with the second best time, before finding himself promoted to P1 in SS4, when Hirvonen rolled his Focus RS WRC.
Solberg was third through Urria 2 and he matched that in SS5, to return to service in Paviljonki with a slender 1.3 second advantage.
"It was good," said Petter. "I took it quite smartly and tried not to be crazy. I've got a good feeling. We have to take it step by step. We were a bit shocked to see Mikko go out.
"It's a long rally and I will try to be consistent now and stay where I am. That last stage was very difficult the second time round. There were deep ruts and my car was too low for the conditions. I must save my car for tomorrow."
Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile now holds second and he cut Solberg's lead by 1.8 seconds in SS5: "Mikko's retirement has put more pressure on me, but I'm not changing my way of thinking," vowed the BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT #2.
"I saw his car and had to drive around it a little because it was partly in the road. I hurt my back after a jump in Urria this morning but I had some treatment from our physio before the second loop and it feels fine now.
"I know where I can go flat out on this rally and where I can't. I'm not at my limit most of the time but if I push harder then it means taking risks and I don't want that. It's important to trust and respect the pace notes here."
Dani Sordo lies third and the Spaniard was quickest in the final stage of the loop, to close up on the top two. He is now just 5.1 seconds off top spot and 3.8 seconds off P2, keen no doubt to make a point after being demoted to the Citroen Junior Team for the remaining gravel rounds of 2010 - and losing his 'A' team seat to Ogier for 2011.