Sebastien Ogier will take a 9.5 second lead over Dani Sordo into the final day of Rallye de France Alscae.
There was nothing between Ogier and Sordo this morning and following the first loop the two were split by just 0.2 seconds, with the latter top in his MINI. However this afternoon Ogier took four fastest times from a possible five and returned to the service park in Strasbourg odds-on to take the victory in his Citroen DS3 WRC.
"The lead is still not comfortable," Ogier told the official WRC site, "so we will have to drive well until the end. I will clean the road a bit in the morning because there is some gravel but if it's foggy like it has been on all the mornings then it can be difficult for everybody and maybe a small advantage for me [because of the dust]."
Sordo for his part put up a valiant fight, but on the repeat loop, sadly he wasn't able to hold off Ogier.
Petter Solberg meanwhile started the day right in the thick of things and led after SS10. However a puncture in SS11 ended his victory hopes and cost him more than 40 seconds. He is now a distant third, 51.9 seconds back.
Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala climbed back to fourth this morning, but despite seven top-three times – including a stage win in SS16 – he is still 40 seconds off a place on the rostrum.
Mikko Hirvonen is next up in the sister works Fiesta RS WRC car, albeit almost 1.5 minutes adrift of his team-mate, although the positions are still likely to be reversed on Sunday – as they were in Australia – given the 31-year-old is still in the battle for the WRC drivers' title. He can make up good ground on Sebastien Loeb too – just like Ogier – as the seven time WRC champion had to retire on Friday due to engine problems.
Dennis Kuipers rounds out the top six for the FERM Powertools Ford WRT, with Armindo Araujo seventh, just 9.5 seconds between the two.
M-Sport Stobart Ford duo Henning Solberg and Mad Ostberg hold positions eighth and ninth, with Pierre Campana, Ken Block and Matthew Wilson in positions 10 through to 12.
Ott Tanak remains well on course for the SWRC class honours – and also P13 overall. Tanak is over 2.5 minutes up on Eyvind Brynildsen. Martin Prokop is third in the class.
The action now concludes on Sunday with 40.66 competitive kilometres on the bill - and six stages.
SS18, the 5.52 km-run through Graviere de Bischwiller 1, begins at 07.18 hours local time [06.18 hours UK time].
Rallye de France Alsace: Overall standings after Stage 17 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2hours 42mins 24.3secs
2. Dani Sordo
MINI WRT John Cooper Works +00mins 09.5secs
3. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 51.9secs
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 36.4secs
5. Mikko Hirvonen
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 11.0secs
6. Dennis Kuipers
FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 59.3secs
7. Armindo Araujo
Motorsport Italia MINI John Cooper Works +06mins 08.8secs
8. Henning Solberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 25.6secs
9. Mads Ostberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 16.4secs
10. Pierre Campana
Equipe de France FFSA MINI John Cooper Works +07mins 44.2secs
11. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 51.2secs
12. Matthew Wilson
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +09mins 32.3secs
13. Ott Tanak
Ford Fiesta S2000 +09mins 58.6secs
14. Khalid Al-Qassimi
Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +11mins 17.4secs
SWRC standings after Stage 17 (Top 3):
1. Ott Tanak
Ford Fiesta S2000 2hours 52mins 22.9secs
2. Eyvind Brynildsen
Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 37.7secs
3. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta S2000 +02mins 47.5secs
SS1. Frigyes Turan
Ford Fiesta S2000 Mechanical
SS3. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Engine
SS2/3. Kimi Raikkonen
ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC Went off on road section
SS6. Peter van Merksteijn
Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC Rolled
SS9. Hermann Gassner Jr
Skoda Fabia S2000 Crashed
SS11. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off
SS11. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Ford Fiesta S2000 Mechanical
SS13. Kris Meeke
MINI WRT John Cooper Works Went off
SS15. Daniel Oliviera
Brazil WRT MINI John Cooper Works Mechanical
all times unofficial