Citroen privateer Petter Solberg will take a 3.7 second lead over Mikko Hirvonen into the final day of Rally Japan, the tenth round in the 2010 World Rally Championship.
Solberg, who is still not feeling 100 per cent, hung onto his overnight lead this morning, until he picked up a 10 second penalty for jumping the start in Kina, which dropped him down to third.
However he fought back this afternoon, setting the pace in two of the three final 'proper' tests to head into the Sapporo super specials with a 4.3 second cushion. He then took another stage win in SS17 – Sapporo 5 - before finishing the day with the fifth best time in SS18. The Norwegian will now be determined to try and end a WRC win drought that stretches right back to 2005.
"This has been a very good day," Solberg said. "The car has been perfect all day, and it is a great feeling to know we are actually still overnight leaders.
"I'm getting better and better from my illness, and I'm really looking forward to a big fight tomorrow. I really thought I should lose more time being the first car on the road, so maybe it will be good tomorrow as well. I have no other strategy other then go 'flat out'!"
BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile was unable to hang onto top spot after a driveshaft broke on his Ford Focus RS WRC in SS15. That cost him a substantial amount of time over the following three stages and he slipped down to fifth place, 30.7 seconds off P1.
"I was about 5km from the finish [of SS15] when the steering didn't feel right but I drove on to the end," Latvala explained. "The driveshaft had broken, leaving no drive to the front right wheel. There was nothing we could do for the final three stages.
"The car turned well into right corners, with a little oversteer like a two-wheel drive car. In left bends it understeered. It was OK in fast sections and under braking but the tighter, slower corners killed my times because I didn't have the traction.
"Sometimes life can be hard. I had a great rhythm in the stage and thought I could build a good lead, but it all turned round and on the final stages, instead of fighting for victory, I was battling to lose as little time as possible."