Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
has pulled out an incredible 1 minute 28.7 second lead today in the sole remaining Xsara WRC, the Frenchman now well on track to secure a second consecutive victory on the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo.
Loeb, who won all of today's three competitive stages - SS7 was stopped after Nicolas Vouilloz's accident, while SS10 was cancelled - commented: "We drove well, without any mistakes.
"Thanks to the team's work, our tyre choices were correct. Tomorrow, we will undoubtedly encounter a number of potential traps. We have to keep our concentration, and try to do as well as we did today."
FranCois Duval has been equally impressive in the Ford Focus. The Belgian, along with Loeb, set a blistering time in stage eight, promoting him from fifth to third overall. He then overhauled team-mate Markko Martin and the pair finished the day second and third respectively.
Duval noted: "Luck was on our side there [when SS7 was cancelled because we were on the wrong tyres]. We were also lucky when we spun near the finish of stage nine. The road was slushy and we spun and stalled the engine. I think we lost about 25 seconds. I enjoy driving in difficult conditions and made no mistakes, apart from that spin. Now it's necessary to do the same tomorrow. The car has been perfect and I've really enjoyed the day."
Martin added: "I hit some ice and we so nearly went off the road [in SS8]. It really jolted me because I didn't know whether the same would happen again later in the stage. I left service with the car set up for dry conditions but when we got into the mountains, it was wet, damp and foggy. I couldn't use the set up I had chosen and the fog was so bad it was hard to pick out the corners.
"We also hit a rock face at the same point as Carlos Sainz had done earlier in the day [in SS11]. The car scraped along the cliff but fortunately it didn't pull a wheel off like Carlos. We had a few lucky escapes but we're still here and it's been a good day for Ford. My car has worked well but I need to make sure the driver does the same tomorrow."
Marcus Gronholm meanwhile has slipped to fourth in the new Peugeot 307 WRC, an excursion off the road in SS9 not aiding his assault.
He explained: "It was a very slow but very slippery corner [where I went off and lost around 40 seconds]. You could have got around it quicker by walking, but we just understeered off. The reason why we lost the time was that it took a while to find reverse gear. I have to say I've not really enjoyed today. There was a lot of fog with conditions changing all the time. It's not the sort of rallying I like, but at least the car has coped very well with the difficult conditions. I don't want to make any predictions about tomorrow because you can never tell in Monte Carlo."