Mikolajki - Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala of Toyota powered through the mud in lashing rain to establish a narrow lead at the Rally of Poland after Friday's third special.
With seven further specials to contest in the wooded eastern Polish countryside on the second day of racing, championship leader and defending world champion Sebastien Ogier of M-Sport Ford and his Estonian teammate Ott Tnak were in close pursuit a few seconds off his pace.
"I have a good feeling with the car. The conditions are difficult. Some sections good grip, some sections slippery. You have to think ahead," Latvala told his team radio.
Less impressed still was Hayden Paddon, who was eighth going into the fourth special.
"It's getting more slippery with every single car. You can't fight physics," he lamented.
Belgium's Thierry Neuville of Hyundai, currently second in the overall rankings, was also keeping pace in fourth but behind them the field had slipped to over 45secs with many competitors spinning off the roads altogether on mud slick corners.
Ireland's Craig Breen was forced to pull up on the roadside after suffering mechanical problems.
"We took out the driveshaft but couldn't get it back
in," a mud splattered Breen said after losing almost three minutes on the