"I didn't expect it to be this close," said the 23-year-old. "My speed is good and I have a great start position tomorrow so I'll see how things go in the morning, before deciding whether to push in the afternoon or steady my pace.
"My confidence improved this afternoon but I'm still working my tyres too hard. I tried to brake softly and be more precise in my driving but I have more to do."
Mikko Hirvonen was next up in fourth in the sister BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT entry and like Jari he is still very much in contention, 4.9 seconds off his team-mate and 13.4 seconds off the lead.
"Everything went to plan this afternoon," stated Mikko, who ended the day on a high, with the best time in the last stage. "I didn't push too hard because there were many loose rocks in the road and I didn't want to hit one and damage the tyres.
"I attacked on the last test to ensure the gap wasn't too large tonight and I'm happy with how it went."
Further down the order Chris Atkinson rounds out the top five, albeit nearly a minute further back in his Impreza. He had a few 'moments', including a spin and a minor off, but luckily neither incident cost him that much time.
"Fifth overall is good - it's in line with our target for this event, and I think we have set a realistic pace this weekend," said the Aussie.
"We've not been taking any risks as the grip today has just been so tricky it would have been easy to make a mistake and throw it off. We have made some changes to the car today which made steps in the right direction, but there is still more to come for tomorrow."
After Atkinson, Urmo Aava put in an impressive drive in his privately entered PH Sport-run C4 WRC and is sixth, 50 seconds off Atkinson and a similar amount up on Matthew Wilson.
Wilson ended the day as the lead Stobart Ford man, with Henning Solberg one spot further down in eighth, after a slow start, while Gigi Galli finished proceedings classified in 19th.
"Today has been a really good start to the rally and I'm starting to feel more comfortable on these tricky stages. Apart from having a couple of minor half spins which dropped us some time, it's all went well today and I'm pleased with our performance," said the Brit.