Sebastien Loeb heads into the day that should see him claim his final World Rally title with a half-minute cushion over his Rally of France rivals.
Loeb and pursuer Jari-Matti Latvala were evenly matched through Saturday afternoon's four stages, beating each other on two apiece. But the cushion the Citroen driver pulled out in the morning – when Latvala's Ford took a trip through a ditch ≠ meant Loeb was able to stay 29.7 seconds ahead.
Mikko Hirvonen had hopes of closing down Latvala and giving Citroen a one-two, only for Latvala's post-mistake pace to see the Ford pull 24.3sec clear instead.
Mads Ostberg's improved speed continued through Saturday, allowing him to bring the Adapta Ford past Dani Sordo's Mini for fourth. Thierry Neuville would have been ahead of both had he not been given a 20sec penalty for arriving late at a time control in the morning. The application of the punishment dropped him to sixth, where he remains - although he is now just 3.9sec behind Sordo and 8sec off Ostberg.
There is also a battle brewing between M-Sport Ford team-mates Ott Tanak and Evgeny Novikov. The Russian raised his game on the afternoon loop to trim seventh-placed Tanak's cushion to 14.2sec.
Elfyn Evans clinched the 2012 WRC Academy title by taking his fourth victory in this season's five rounds so far.
Leading positions after SS16:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 2h54m33.4s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 29.7s
3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 54.0s
4. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 1m46.4s
5. Dani Sordo Prodrive Mini + 1m50.5s
6. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior + 1m54.4s
7. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford + 2m32.0s
8. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford + 2m46.2s
9. Chris Atkinson Italia Mini + 6m14.9s
10. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 7m46.7s