Nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb on Friday built-up a formidable 40-second lead over French compatriot Sebastien Ogier in the Rally of Argentina, a race he has won every year since 2005.
Loeb, in a Citroen, captured the day's last two main stages with only a super-special to run, having already snatched the advantage from overnight leader Ogier, in a Volkswagen Polo, earlier in the day.
The only setback for Loeb was seeing Citroen teammate Mikko Hirvonen slip from second to sixth place after suffering a puncture and then an electrical failure.
It took a rare error by world championship leader Ogier to hand Loeb the lead.
Ahead of the field by 17 seconds, Ogier overran a crossroads in difficult muddy conditions near Cordoba, damaging his car into the bargain and had to backtrack, losing 45 seconds in the process on the seventh stage.
Ogier, the winner in Portugal, Sweden and Mexico this year, then lost more time on the eighth stage with a front left puncture.
"I pushed really hard," said Loeb.
"It's rough, but you have to go over the rocks and hope that you don't get what happened to the others."
Ogier, whose puncture was caused when he ran into a stone, refused to be too downcast knowing that Loeb is not a world title threat with the Frenchman having already decided to run a reduced programme in 2013.
"It's not my plan (to catch Loeb). My plan was to catch Hirvonen. I only care about him," Ogier told www.wrc.com.