Ogier started Friday with 6.7 seconds in hand over Loeb but was powerless to prevent that small buffer from ebbing away and within three stages found himself 13 seconds behind his fellow countryman.

Ogier’s case was not held by conflicting intel from his ice note crew which led to the defending champion losing time across the entire morning loop. And despite on-going set-up headaches with his Yaris Rally1 car, he fought back this afternoon, however, and moved ahead of his Toyota running mate Elfyn Evans to narrow the gap to Loeb to 9.9 seconds.

“Overall, I think it is positive to be here tonight and we are still in a good position to fight for the win, so that’s the most important thing,” said Ogier, who has a new co-driver in Benjamin Veillas for the rallies he will start with the Japanese manufacturer in 2022.

“This morning I was a little bit on the safe side and then this afternoon I really push, but at the moment we cannot go faster – we are missing some stability with the car, some fractions. We have been struggling and it is not possible to be any faster but I think that I can be happy with my second loop.

“We are going to adjust what we can with the set-up to see if we can get more speed for tomorrow but generally, right now, there are two areas we struggle with the car: the differential and the suspension. We are going to try and make some adjustment to see if we can be better tomorrow but we don’t have to many options, that’s the thing.”

Ogier was complementary of the job M-Sport Ford's engineers have done with the Puma Rally1 car and knows only too well what the Cockermouth-based squad is capable of having won back-to-back drivers' titles with them back in 2017 and 2018.

“I think we are in the middle [of the Yaris’s performance] right now, so of course it is very new and there is room for improvement and right now it is difficult to follow the pace of the Ford,” said the 38-year-old, who is the most successful driver in the history Rallye Monte Carlo with eight victories.

“I think I can say hats off to my friends from M-Sport because the car looks really fast – you saw that this afternoon – and he [Loeb] is progressing all the time obviously, but we will keep working to try and be better.”