Sebastien Ogier topped all three Friday morning stages on Rally Australia as he inched out a lead over Citroen duo Kris Meeke and Mikko Hirvonen.
Meeke continued to impress in the event set to decide his World Rally Championship future and was runaway points leader Ogier's closest rival for most of the loop.
Hirvonen raised his game through the morning as well, and was only half a second down on Ogier's flying Volkswagen on the 24-kilometre Newry stage. With Meeke having a scare with a big rock on the same stage, Hirvonen closed to within 0.2 second of his temporary teammate, while Ogier is nine seconds clear of the Citroens up front.
M-Sport Ford's lead driver Thierry Neuville admitted to feeling "lost" on his Rally Australia debut. He still holds fourth at present, 25.6sec off the lead but ahead of teammate Mads Ostberg.
Jari-Matti Latvala's rally is so far proving as tough as he predicted.
A spin on the Tuckers Nob stage that opened the morning means the VW driver is back in eighth behind teammate Andreas Mikkelsen and M-Sport's Evgeny Novikov.
Leading positions after SS5:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier VW 29m50.9s
2. Kris Meeke Citroen +8.8s
3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen +9.0s
4. Thierry Neuville M-Sport Ford +25.6s
5. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Ford +27.7s
6. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +37.0s
7. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford +40.0s
8. Jari-Matti Latvala VW +44.9s
9. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Yazeed Ford +2m14.4s*
10. Nathan Quinn Italia Mini +2m15.7s
* WRC 2