Dani Sordo will start the final six stages of Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse firmly in contention for a debut victory in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge following a day of high drama on the demanding asphalt roads around Corte in the centre of the picturesque Mediterranean island.

Sordo, in a MINI John Cooper Works S2000, left the overnight halt in Calvi trailing defending IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen by 1.8s but is now in front by a margin of more than 25 seconds over factory Skoda driver Jan Kopecky.

Local hero Pierre Campana and French ace Bryan Bouffier are close behind in their Peugeot 207 S2000s in what is shaping up to be a thrilling battle for the remaining podium places.

For a while it looked as though Sordo would be unable to contain his Skoda UK Motorsport rival when Mikkelsen went fastest on Friday's first test to open up an advantage of 7.2s starting the 24.57-kilometre Erbajolo-Pont d'Altiani stage.

But Mikkelsen would manage barely two kilometres of the run before his hopes of an elusive maiden IRC win on asphalt were shattered when he took a left-hand bend too quickly, slid into a ditch and struck a wooden telegraph pole, which punctured a tyre and cued an agonising delay while he and co-driver Ola Fl?ene worked to change the damaged wheel. They lost more ground when the jack failed.

And just to compound Mikkelsen's frustration, a right-rear puncture on Friday's final stage caused further delay.

"It's not been my day today - I'll just have to come back stronger tomorrow," said the Norwegian, who is fifth overall following stage eight, which was halted when Jean-Dominique Mattei's privateer Fabia became engulfed in flames after he and co-driver Patrick Scipilitti abandoned the burning car, fortunately without injury.

There were no such problems for Sordo, who drove without fault on his first appearance in Corsica since 2008.

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"I was not so confident on the first stage with my pacenotes and the set-up but the car was incredible in the afternoon and I'm very happy with my day," said the Spanish driver.

Kopecky moved ahead of Campana on stage four and began to pull clear as the Corsican was slowed with a gearbox tulip issue and a driveshaft glitch. But a determined display by Campana during the afternoon stages has kept him firmly in the fight for second place. Bouffier, meanwhile, found the set-up of his Peugeot more to his liking today but admitted he was struggling with illness.

Mathieu Arzeno started Friday's closing run in a solid fifth place but a suspected differential fault on the last stage left his Peugeot stranded by the side of the road for almost five minutes. He slips to twelfth as a result. In contrast, his Saint?loc Racing team-mate Craig Breen has performed heroically to charge up from 23rd to seventh in the space of five stages after the driveshaft failure that slowed him on day one.

Jean-Marc Manzagol is on course for his first IRC points in sixth place with Sepp Wiegand eighth for Skoda Auto Deutschland. Jean-Mathieu Leandri is ninth in the third Saint?loc 207 with Andreas Aigner an impressive tenth and leading IRC Production Cup contender in his Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 STI, despite fears of a transmission issue prior to the halted final stage.

Hermann Gassner Jr will start the final day four seconds behind Aigner in his Red Bull Team Fabia with IRC Production Cup title-holder Toshi Arai second in class in 14th overall. Jarkko Nikara completes a Subaru top-three in the category for Tommi M?kinen Racing in 15th position.

Petru Antone Boschetti heads the battle for IRC 2WD Cup honours in his Renault Clio R3 after an engine fire forced overnight leader Pierre Antoine Guglielmi's retirement on a dramatic sixth stage, when Emmanuel Guigou crashed his Renault M?gane RS, shortly after he'd demoted Guglielmi for first place. Rallying legend Fran?ois Delecour, in another M?gane, is second overnight but Honda Civic Type R driver Menya Kr?zser is out due to engine failure.

Marty McCormack's bid for his first IRC points suffered a setback when he picked up two punctures on the first stage in his Petter Solberg Engineering Fiesta. The Northern Irish driver languishes in 20th overall as a result. Oleksandr Saliuk, in a Dream Team Ukraine Fiesta, got to the end of the run with damage to the left-rear suspension and brakes but was unable to complete the liaison section back to service. Julien Maurin crashed his similar Fiesta on stage six but Oleksii Tamrazov is still running in his Fiesta in 18th place.

Giandomenico Basso failed to restart on Friday due to damage sustained to his Fiesta RRC in an incident on a liaison section on Thursday evening. The Italian was second at the time of his exit. Subaru driver Marco Tempestini also failed to return after a differential fault that struck his Subaru during Wednesday's shakedown could not be cured.