(Reuters) - M-Sport Ford's Ott Tanak was heading for victory in Rally Chile after dominating Saturday's gravel stages and ending the penultimate leg with a 58.3 second advantage over Hyundai's Teemu Suninen.
The Estonian had started the day 4.2 seconds clear but steadily stretched his lead by winning four of the day's six stages.
The Concepcion-based rally has another four stages on Sunday, amounting to 54.12km.
"It's been an extremely good day," said Tanak, the 2019 world rally champion, whose decision to opt for the longer-lasting hard tyres set him apart from rivals.
"It's been working in our favour and on the stages which were bad, we had the advantage to slow down and when it was needed we were able to speed up."
Hyundai's Thierry Neuville was in third place, 13.9 seconds behind Suninen, with Toyota's title contenders Elfyn Evans and championship leader Kalle Rovanpera fourth and fifth respectively.
Rovanpera celebrates his 23rd birthday on Sunday and is 33 points clear of Evans with two rallies remaining after Chile.
The Finn would need to score 28 points more than Evans to secure the title in Chile.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)