Four-times world champion Tommi Mäkinen will take a slender half-second lead into tomorrow's final leg of the Rally Argentina, sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Subaru driver grabbed the advantage from yesterday's leader Marcus Grönholm on this afternoon's penultimate special stage and although Grönholm retaliated in the last test, he fell just short of reclaiming the advantage.
Reigning world champion Richard Burns is still in contention in third position, half a minute off the lead, while fourth-placed Petter Solberg is poised to fight with double world champion Carlos Sainz during tomorrow's short final leg.
Today's schedule gave crews a repeat run over the same stages that had been used yesterday and the slightly rougher conditions resulted in further retirements amongst the manufacturer entries.
Peugeot lost both Harri Rovanperä and Gilles Panizzi, while Hyundai's Freddy Loix retired from his overnight sixth place at the end of the morning's first test.
Subaru's Tommi Mäkinen suffered a brief scare on today's second stage, when his Impreza WRC2002's master switch cut all power after a heavy landing. In normal circumstances this would mean a reset, costing around 15 seconds, but when the Finn flicked the switch back into position the car started immediately so he didn't lose much time as a result.
Petter Solberg's car was reliable this morning but then in SS12, the Norwegian's gearbox went into 'safe mode'. The car's transmission then locked solid after a jump in the Pro-Racing superspecial and although he rectified that problem, he had to continue through the following three tests before service with the gearbox in 'safe mode', which lengthens shifts and costs time. The Norwegian also suffered intercom problems in the afternoon.
Mäkinen started today knowing that leader Marcus Grönholm would have to hit problems if he was to stand a chance of overhauling his countryman, and when the Peugeot driver lost hydraulic pressure on the opening two stages it gave his challenger enough of a chance for him to attack. The four-times world champion chipped away at Grönholm's lead throughout the afternoon and a very fast time on the day's penultimate stage was enough for him to move into the lead. Although Grönholm fought back in SS18, Mäkinen held on to the lead by just half a second.
Petter Solberg, meanwhile, spun on today's first stage and was then slowed by a puncture, intercom problems and gearbox glitches. The young Norwegian is embroiled in a battle with Carlos Sainz for fourth - he leads the Spaniard by just 8.9 seconds overnight.