Ford's Ott Tanak stormed into the lead after the sixth super special of a topsy-turvy Rally of Portugal around Viana do Castelo, north of Porto on Friday.
The Estonian had also previously held the lead in a very tight race just 0.1sec ahead of Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala but 3.7sec in front of Hayden Paddon of New Zealand.
"The ruts are deep and it's hard for anyone to really get away," Ford's Chris Meeke said during a day in which he also briefly grabbed the lead on the narrow, often sandy dirt tracks.
A rare dead heat in a thrilling opening super stage Thursday saw Thierry Neuville and Mads Ostberg share the overnight lead before a succession of changes left Tanak top after six specials on Friday.
Friday's action of this sixth date on the calendar culminates with two super stages run around the city streets of Braga.
© 2017 AFP