Thierry Neuville took the lead at a crash-hit Monte Carlo Rally on Friday following stage two.
The Belgian steered his new Hyundai i20 Coupe to the top of the standings with three stage wins on the day and now holds a healthy 45.1 second lead over defending world champion Sebastien Ogier.
Despite suffering a minor crash into a snowbank – from which he escaped thanks to some helping hands from spectators – Frenchman Ogier managed to get his victory hopes back on track by moving up from third to second overall.
Just behind is Ogier’s Ford Fiesta teammate Ott Tanak from Estonia.
Unlike most drivers, Tanak enjoyed a trouble-free day on his M-sport return.
He is a mere three tenths of a second adrift.
Britain’s Kris Meeke crashed out of the first full day of action in the championship opener.
The Citroen driver was running in second place going onto stage four when he hit a bank and suffered suspension damage.
He will resume racing on Saturday.
As will Juha Hanninen, who smashed his brand new Toyota into a tree on special stage five.
He is currently down in 22nd place over two minutes 30 down on the leader.
The rally began with two overnight stages on Thursday but the first was cancelled when New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon crashed his Hyundai which resulted in the death of a spectator.