Fired-up Meeke so determined to boost Toyota's title ambitions
As Toyota team-mate and World Championship leader Ott Tanak surged out in front, Kris Meeke had his sights set on backing him up with at least a fourth place finish to Rally Germany.
Tanak has won three of the last four rounds of the series but Toyota still trail Hyundai by 24 points in the all-important manufacturers' championship, the deficit largely down to Meeke and their third driver Jari Matti Latvala failing to deliver points in recent rallies.
With Hyundai's Thierry Neuville in second place, less than three seconds behind Tanak, and Citroen's World champion Sebastien Ogier third, fourth place was shaping up to be significant in the battle for manufacturer points.
"I'm not too far away from a podium place but my main focus is on fourth and bringing home manufacturer points," said the Andorra-based Ulsterman.
"I had a good rhythm all day and apart from a small mistake, running wide on some gravel in stage three, I had a clean run and I'm fairly happy with the day.
"But it could all change (today) when we get to Baumholder (the army's tank testing area) where there is a lot of broken concrete and so easy to get a puncture."
Meeke was just three seconds behind Ogier, two ahead of Latvala, but had been involved in a fierce fight for most of the day with Hyundai's Dani Sordo, the two of them often separated by less than a second.
But on the last stage yesterday, the Spaniard hit transmission trouble, dropping almost a minute and falling back to ninth.
The third Hyundai of Andreas Mikkelsen was some 15 seconds back from Meeke in sixth place.
Citroen's former Circuit of Ireland winner Esapekka Lappi was seventh ahead of Ford's Gus Greensmith, the young English driver again deputising for Elfyn Evans who continues to recover from a back injury.
And the M-Sport Ford team suffered a further blow when Teemu Suninen's Fiesta stopped with a mechanical fault on the first of yesterday's stages.