Reigning World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier heads into the weekend stages of the Monte-Carlo Rally with victory in his sights following a disastrous final stage for nine-times king Sebastien Loeb.
Loeb, who retired from rallying 15 months ago but is making a one-off guest appearance in the season-opening event, began day two with a 13.3secs cushion over Ogier.
It proved to be a nip-and-tuck affair between Loeb and Ogier over the first four stages of the day - stages three to six overall.
Come the final stage, though, disaster struck for Loeb when he hit a rock in his Citroen DS3 which damaged the left-rear suspension, resulting in him losing six minutes and dropping to 10th overall.
It means Ogier’s nearest challenger is Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
Loeb started the day with a storming drive on the opening stage to increase his advantage to 28 seconds over Ogier, which was trimmed to 24 after the next stage headed by Robert Kubica.
Kubica had finished day one in a miserable 66th position following torment when his Ford Fiesta RS encountered electrical problems.
That included the Pole being pulled over by the police at one stage for driving without lights.
But Kubica showed on his day he is a driver to be highly respected as he also won two further stages, only to encounter more trouble on the last of the day via two separate incidents, including hitting a tree.
Out in front, though, it was proving to be a straight fight between Loeb and Ogier, with the seven-times Monte winner losing 21 seconds on stage five, but then winning stage six to eke out a 6.6secs lead.
On stage seven, though, Loeb suffered a spin that resulted in him dropping 14.6secs to Ogier, and with it the lead to instead fall eight seconds back, before hitting his major trouble on stage eight.
Under WRC regulations Loeb may yet be forced to take an additional 10-minute penalty if he is unable to return to the service area.
Behind the leaders is another Volkswagen driver in Andreas Mikkelsen in third, with Welshman Elfyn Evans sixth in his Ford Fiesta RS, three minutes and 15 seconds back.
Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke, running fourth after stage seven, endured a wretched stage eight as like Loeb he damaged the left-rear suspension on his Citroen DS3, failing to cross the line.