Breen ended the opening day of Rally Finland strongly, leapfrogging team-mate Ott Tanak on the day’s deciding test to carry a 2.8 seconds buffer going into Saturday.

The Irishman recorded the third fastest time through ‘Oittila’ despite his vision being impaired by the lamp pod on the bonnet of his car that was not, as he put it, “100%”.

That led him and co-driver Paul Nagle to miss a handful of junctions towards the start – but he refused to allow that to overshadow their overall performance.

“It sounds pretty good to be rally leader this evening,” said Breen, who has given himself a solid foundation on which he can build towards a first WRC victory this weekend.

“We have had an amazing day and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The stages are really nice, and especially the final one in the dark.

“The later runners were a bit more in darkness, and I actually had some moments at the start,” he added. “We lost a bit of rhythm, missed a couple of junctions but nothing terrible. I enjoyed the last part inside the forest, and it was nice to see the time at the end.”

With less than eight seconds separating the top five cars, Breen admitted he requires another herculean effort on round ten to stay out in front. “I think everyone is going to find a little something extra tomorrow,” he said, “so we’ll try to take any opportunity that comes our way.”

Tanak echoed those sentiments and with the i20 Coupe WRC now to his liking after a disastrous pre-event test led to a wrong set-up call for Friday’s opener, he is now focused on a third straight Rally Finland triumph.

“It has been a surprisingly good day and very consistent. On the small narrow roads, we were a bit handicapped and lost a lot, but on the fast and flowing parts we were on the pace,” he said.

“The improvements in the car on these fast roads are down to the efforts of the team, who have been working hard; they’ve done their job well and the performance here is better than it has been for them in the past.

“Tomorrow, we have some tough stages and a long loop, so it’s definitely going to be the big day of the weekend,” he added.