Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville are locked in a thrilling battle for the lead of the Rally of Germany after World Championship leader Sebastien Ogier made an early exit.

Latvala holds a 7.3-second advantage over Neuville, but the main talking point was the end of Ogier's challenge.

Ogier has dominated the 2013 season, holding a colossal 90-point lead at the top of the standings heading into the ninth round of the series, and he could have secured the title this weekend.

The Frenchman had held the overnight lead after two short stages on Thursday, but he failed to make it past Friday's opening test as he slid off the road after hitting a damp patch and broke the left-front suspension on his Polo R.

"We were surprised by a slippery place under braking," he told wrc.com.

"Some humidity was left on the braking point and we didn't have it in the pace notes. I came a bit too fast for the conditions and went straight into the ditch where there was a small step that damaged the suspension."

Ogier's team-mate Latvala assumed the lead as a result of his colleague's error, but Belgian Neuville ate into the Finn's advantage by setting the fastest time on four consecutive stages.

That left the Ford Qatar World Rally Team driver just two seconds adrift with two tests remaining on Friday.

But Latvala led the way on both stages to eke out his advantage at the end of the first full day.

The Citroens of Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen lie third and fourth as they were unable to match the pace of the front two, while Mads Ostberg is fifth in his Ford ahead of Martin Prokop, Nassir Al-Attiyah and Robert Kubica, who leads the WRC2 class.

Wales' Elfyn Evans, son of former WRC driver Gwyndaf, lies ninth with Sepp Wiegand rounding out the top 10.