Craig Breen holds a narrow 3.7 second lead in the Super 2000 category and 12th overall in the World Rally Finland after the second day of action.
Breen is being partnered for the first time by Killarney man Paul Nagle as the Waterford driver returns to the sport after the death of his co-driver Gareth Roberts in mid-June.
Holding fourth in the class after Thursday’s rallying, Friday saw an eventful battle between Breen and the Swedish driver PG Andersson.
The fight was initially for third place in the SWRC category but stage 5 saw the demise of the current championship leader Hayden Paddon, the Kiwi going out with an engine problem in his Skoda.
Breen was delighted at the end the penultimate stage as he closes in a fantastic result in Finland.
"Yeah, it’s incredible to be in this position. Myself and PG (Andersson) are fighting all day. First for third place and now it looks as the battle is for the class win.
"I know Hayden had some problems and went out early on, that’s very hard luck for him and on that last loop Lappi dropped out but this rally is just so difficult, just one mistake and your rally is over.
"Saturday will be a very hard day but to be in this position is unbelievable."