Cardiff - Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland won four of the six stages on the opening day of the Wales Rally GB to take a 12.1-second lead over Ford teammate Petter Solberg on Friday.
Sebastien Loeb of France heads into the second day of the 10th rally of the championships in third place as he bids for a victory that would clinch a ninth straight world rally title.
Loeb, driving a Citroen, is 21.3 seconds behind Latvala and may have to wait until his home rally in France next month to seal the title.
Loeb says "I'm not concerned — I don't need to win."
Loeb is 54 points ahead of Citroen teammate Mikko Hirvonen in the overall standings with three more races left. Hirvonen is fifth in the Wales Rally GB.
Friday after the first day of the Wales Rally GB:
1. Jari-Matti Latvala, Finland, Ford, 1 hour, 25 minutes, 05.7 seconds
2. Petter Solberg, Norway, Ford, 1:25:17.8
3. Sebastien Loeb, France, Citroen, 1:25:27.0
4. Mads Ostberg, Norway, Adapta, 1:25:38.3
5. Mikko Hirvonen, Finland, Citroen, 1:25:59.5
6. Ott Tanak, Estonia, Ford, 1:27:04.3
7. Evgeny Novikov, Russia, M-Sport Ford, 1:26:38.5
8. Thierry Neuville, Belgium, Citroen, 1:27:33.6
9. Matthew Wilson, Britain, Ford, 1:28:22.7
10. Martin Prokop, Czech Republic, Ford, 1:28:42.5