Bryan Bouffier is sixth overnight in his 207 and was relieved to have completed the Ronde stage after admitting to his dislike of driving in the dark. Freddy Loix, who spent the first two loops of stages bemoaning his lowly start position of 13th in his factory Skoda, is seventh. The Belgian has won on all three of his IRC appearances so far this season but faces a tall order to climb the leaderboard after he was saddled with a ten-second penalty for entering the day's penultimate service halt 60 seconds late. The top seven drivers from Basso to Loix are covered by one minute, thereby underlining the close competition in the IRC.
Bruno Magalhaes, who is returning to IRC action after skipping last month's Barum Czech Rally Zlin, is eleventh overall in his Peugeot Sport Portugal 207. Guy Wilks, at the wheel of his Skoda UK Motorsport Fabia, is twelfth, with rising star Thierry Neuville 14th in his Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg 207.
It was a disappointing start to the event for Niall McShea, whose PROTON Satria Neo S2000 ground to a halt on the road section heading to stage one with engine failure. However, team-mate Gilles Panizzi, a three-time winner in Sanremo, is 23rd on his first appearance for the Malaysian manufacturer.
Andreas Mikkelsen was another early casualty after he slid off the road seven kilometres into the first stage, where his M-Sport Ford Fiesta became stuck on a slope. Umberto Scandola crashed his similar car on stage five while running tenth overall.
Local hero Sandro Sottile tops the IRC 2WD Cup standings in his Honda Civic Type-R after making the most of his knowledge of the challenging roads.
Saturday's leg features 111.42 competitive kilometres and gets underway at 0750hrs local time. The first car is due to reach the finish in Sanremo at 1500hrs.