Kris Meeke is on the verge on doing something no other British driver has achieved; victory at the famous Rally Finland.
The Northern Irishman stamped his authority on the event and looks set to deny local hero Jari-Matti Latvala his third consecutive event known as the Grand Prix of the forest.
Meeke more than doubled his lead over Latvala to 41.0sec, winning four of the eight super-fast forest speed tests in his Citroën. In the process putting him in a position that not even the likes of the late Colin McRae or Richard Burns could do and that's win Rally Finland.
Restarting with an 18.1sec advantage, Meeke attacked from the outset including a stunning early-morning drive through the awesome Ouninpohja stage. The 33km challenge features more than 70 flat out jumps and is regarded as the sport's biggest test of courage.
Meeke defeated Latvala by more than 13sec, as Latvala then admitted his focus had switched to preserving second place in his Volkswagen Polo R.
To further prove his pace, Meeke won the repeat pass through Ouninpohja in the afternoon as he further increased his lead.
“Today has been exceptional. Yesterday was one of the best days I've had in a rally car and today has surpassed that,” said Meeke.
“I don't know where I go from here! We have a job to do tomorrow – play it safe and try to bring it home.”
Latvala had a trouble-free day to head Craig Breen by 64.4sec, the Irishman climbing from fifth in a DS 3 and on the verge of a maiden WRC podium.
Five drivers entertained the huge crowds in a thrilling battle for fourth. Ott Tanak headed the quintet in a remarkably topsy-turvy day. He banished memories of Friday's problems to rocket from eighth to fifth, only for a puncture to put him back where he started. However, a determined afternoon enabled the Estonian to regain fourth in his Ford Fiesta RS.
He finished 4.4sec ahead of Thierry Neuville, the Belgian still not totally satisfied with the handling of his Hyundai i20. Team-mate Hayden Paddon was 2.7sec further back, the Kiwi happier with his car's balance but at a loss to understand his lack of pace.
“We started the day feeling more confident,” said Paddon.
“We made some changes to the car balance, adjusting some suspension settings, and it was more to my liking.
“Of course, we were second on the road so we were sweeping on the morning stages, which didn't help. We were preparing for a good fight in the afternoon but we weren't able to find the speed we were expecting. It was difficult to pinpoint why we were losing the time because I couldn't have driven any faster.
“I can't be too negative – we get to drive a WRC car on these amazing Finnish stages and that's special.”
Mads Ostberg shared a stage win en route to seventh in his Fiesta RS, 2.4sec behind Paddon. Andreas Mikkelsen was the big loser, sliding from third to eighth in his Polo R as he struggled for traction on the loose gravel from first in the running order. WRC 2 leader Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen completed the leaderboard.
Championship leader Sebastien Ogier won two stages and shared a fastest time with Ostberg after brake problems delayed him this morning, while Lorenzo Bertelli and Eric Camilli both retired after rolling heavily.
Australia's Scott Pedder was determined to progress over Saturday's eight stages, putting aside a further spin and overshoot on one corner to end the day tenth in WRC2 and 20th outright.
“We knew yesterday that we needed some of the guys ahead of us to hit problems if we had a chance of edging further up the order, unfortunately that just didn't happen today, everyone seemed to have a trouble free day,” said Pedder.
“Just like the stages, today has been up and down. It hasn't been the greatest day, but it hasn't been the worst either. I've aimed for a solid pace, no risks, and apart from the spin and the overshoot it's been a decent enough end to the day. Only four quite short stages to go tomorrow, but anything can still happen.”
Sunday's final leg is a sprint. Drivers face two identical loops of two stages south of Jyvaskyla covering 33.96km. There is no service after the start and the final Oittila test forms the live TV Power Stage, with bonus points for the fastest three drivers.
VIDEO: Morning Stages
POSITIONS: Rally Finland – Leg 2
|Abu Dhabi Total WRT
|Abu Dhabi Total WRT
|DMACK World Rally Team
|M-Sport World Rally Team
|Volkswagen Motorsport II