Two-time world champion Sebastien Ogier saw his Monte Carlo Rally lead cut back by a minute on Saturday but the French driver stayed on course for victory over Sunday’s concluding 52km.
The Volkswagen driver saw his 1min 45sec overnight advantage trimmed to 42 seconds by team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala on a day when the first of the scheduled four stages was cancelled for safety reasons.
Former Formula One driver Robert Kubica, in a Ford Fiesta, took the first stage completed, with nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb claiming the second.
Loeb, a seven-time Monte Carlo winner, had seen his hopes of overall victory shattered on Friday when his Citroen suffered a broken rear suspension after a collision with a rock on the icy surface.
Kris Meeke, also in a Citroen, claimed the day’s final stage.
“The fact that the first stage was cancelled perhaps affected our rhythm,” admitted Ogier.
“We took zero risks, we gave up a little time but there is no reason to panic. We started off on a good rhythm in the afternoon and were on a good pace.”
Loeb, who had led after Thursday’s two special stages, slipped to 15th place on Friday after his accident.
By Saturday night he had climbed back to ninth spot, just ahead of teammate Meeke.
The 83rd edition of the prestigious rally concludes with three more stages on Sunday.