If the 22-year-old can hold station, then two points on Sunday’s end-of-rally Power Stage is all the talented Finn requires to become the youngest champion in the history of the competiton. Currently, that record belongs to the late, great Colin McRae at 29 years and 89 days.

“It has been a really tricky and eventful day, but still quite enjoyable inside the car,” he said. “Weather conditions was a really big challenge today, but I saw that as an opportunity more than anything. Four more stages tomorrow, so it is still too early to think about the Championship. Time to focus on those stages, rest well and then we will see tomorrow what happens,” he added.

Long before day two dawned, there had been a flurry of activity away from the stages, back in the stewards’ room after three Rally1 drivers were deemed to have broken rules governing the energy recovery units in their cars. Unquestionably the biggest casualty was Friday’s overnight leader Tanak.

He snatched top spot as the opening leg came to a close only to have it taken away from him after stewards meted out a five second time penalty for the infringement. The offence related to the hybrid system developing too much boost during Thursday night’s spectator special stage. Team-mate Thierry Neuville suffered the same fate at the Estonian but, oddly, the number Hyundai driver Oliver Solberg didn’t.

Despite acknowledging the performance gain was “negligible”, and Hyundai Motorsport’s Team Manager Pablo Marcos admitting the error was a result of an engineer making a “mistake”, the stewards concluded “the maximum value was nevertheless exceeded”, and reminded those present that it is “the competitors’ responsibility to ensure compliance of the car at all times”.

Then, some ten hours later, confirmation came that Rovanpera had also been stung by the same penalty for an identical offence although – unlike Tanak – it did not affect his starting place on Saturday. It did, however, widen the gap to him and Sebastien Ogier at the to 5.5 seconds.

Boiled down, it meant Elfyn Evans started day two with a 5.2 second advantage to protect – but it lasted one stage for the Welshman as he lost his braking on a quick downhill section on the next, spun into a bank and inflicted considerable damage to the front and rear of his GR Yaris Rally1 car.

He dropped to fourth behind Ogier but avoided immediate retirement by resorting to using bottles of drinking water stored inside his car to top the radiator up and keep temperatures on the safe side. In stark contrast, World Rally Championship leader Rovanpera went on a massive charge to climb from fourth to first.

He escaped a few lairy moments on the greasy roads but lived to tell the tale and, in the process, moved 4.6 seconds clear of Tanak who claimed to be having “no feeling” with his I20 N and therefore “no speed”. Those positions remained unchanged for the very short ‘Komokoriki’ test which ended up being cancelled by organisers when Gus Greensmith drifted off line on a fast left-hander and ended up in a ditch.

The impact close to the start of the stage sent his Puma Rally1 into a series of rolls and when it came to rest looked rather sorry for itself. Fortunately, both he and team-mate Jonas Andersson extracted themselves from the car and walked to safety before organisers brought out the red flags. Neuville was the last Rally1 driver to register a time despite having to contend without third gear.

Greensmith was soon joined on the retirement list by Evans as the repair work required on his car was deemed too extensive when he reached lunchtime service back in Auckland. “We did all we could to make it back to service but that’s it for today,” he said shortly afterwards.

In the afternoon, Rovanpera monstered the repeat of ‘Kaipara Hills’, ‘Puhoi’ by setting fastest times to put 28.1 seconds of daylight between him and his closest pursuer and a further 0.9 of a second after ‘Komokoriki’. The numb sensation Tanak experienced with his car continued after service where the hybrid boost gremlins from Thursday evening resurfaced.

So, at the stroke of a pen, the 2019 World champion incurred a 10 second time penalty and he immediately slipped behind Ogier to third. Neuville and Solberg attracted the same punishment leaving the Belgian “with nothing to fight for” on the event’s return to the calendar for the first time since 2012.

That handed the job of chasing down Rovanpera to Ogier, but the Frenchman had clearly been spooked by what had happened to Evans and refused to go gung-ho on roads that closely resembled those at Wales Rally GB. “The plan is to try to drive well, but it's difficult with a lot of standing water,” he said. “I don’t want to take full risks because Elfyn is missing now and the team needs two cars at the end.”

Ogier needn’t have worried about having to push harder than he would have wanted to because checking into the penultimate stage a minute late incurred a 10 second time penalty and made an already difficult job of reeling in Rovanpera now seemingly impossible. But compared to Toyota Junior Takamoto Katsusta, it could have been worse. The Japanese star snaked off the road on a tight left-hander five miles after the start and left his GR Yaris Rally1 parked down a hillside.

With four Sunday stages remaining, Ogier’s buffer over Tanak is 17.4 seconds, and the gulf between Tanak and Neuville 55 seconds. Solberg is the last-remaining points-scoring Rally1 car in third. “Certainly not one of the best days we’ve had this season, and in fact it’s been very demanding at time,” he said. “We have picked up some time penalties, as well as having other trouble, but we have made it to the end of the day. We’re still here in third place, so it’s not all so bad.”