Jari-Matti Latvala leads Toyota teammate Kris Meeke by just 1.2 seconds on the end of Friday on Rally Finland, with the top four drivers separated by just 2.6 seconds.
Latvala, competing on his home event this weekend, tops the timesheets after winning six of the 10 stages across Friday, with him and Meeke being joined in the top three by Esapekka Lappi, who made a welcome return to the front of the field after struggling so far this season.
Lappi has an even tighter margin between him and championship leader Ott Tänak, with the leader of the morning’s stages sitting just 0.2 seconds further behind in fourth overall.
The quartet battled closely throughout the day, with the change in lead coming on stage seven as first on the road Tänak suffered from the ruts left after the first passage of the Moksi stage.
Completing the top five at the end of Friday is the returning Craig Breen, who put in several strong stage times to be the leading Hyundai driver. Teammate Andreas Mikkelsen is sixth, just 0.2 seconds adrift.
Sebastien Ogier, who announced this week he was to retire from the sport at the end of 2020, was seventh, with the defending champion sitting ahead of Thierry Neuville, who struggled with setup problems throughout the day.
The top 10 overall were completed by M-Sport duo Teemu Suninen, who suffered lost time for most of the day due to breaking the splitter on the Ford Fiesta WRC early on and Gus Greensmith as he competed on his first day of action in only his second WRC appearance.
WRC2 PRO saw Kalle Rovanperä build up a huge lead over Eric Camilli, with the young Finn winning all 10 stages in the class across the day. In the overall standings, he’s ahead of WRC2 leader Pierre-Louis Loubet, fellow Finn Teemu Asunmaa and Nikolay Gryazin.
The Junior WRC leaderboard has the top two drivers in the championship again battling it out at the front of the field. Tom Kristensson has a 24.2 seconds lead over Jan Solans, with Dennis Rådström rounding out the top three in class.
Raul Badiu was airlifted to hospital after a huge crash on stage six, with the Romanian driver suffering broken ribs as a result.
Tomorrow sees a very busy day for the crews, with a further eight stages taking place across 14 hours throughout Saturday.