(Reuters) - Hyundai's Thierry Neuville will take a hefty 38.9 second lead into the final day of the Rally of France in Corsica after rivals Sebastien Ogier and Chris Meeke suffered setbacks on Saturday.
The Belgian took the lead in the morning when engine problems forced Northern Irishman Meeke to retire after leading overnight.
Neuville, who won three out of four stages, had already gone ahead of M-Sport Ford driver and reigning champion Ogier, with the Frenchman hit by hydraulics and gearbox woes and ending the day second overall.
Spaniard Dani Sordo was in third place for Hyundai, 18.8 seconds behind Ogier.
Two stages of the asphalt rally remain to be run on Sunday, one of them the longest of all at 53.78km and the other a short finale with bonus points.
"The team worked really hard to improve the set-up of the car for today’s loops, and the handling was much better," said Neuville. "I felt more confident to push and could carry more speed through the corners.
"Aside from a small spin in stage seven, we’ve had nearly the perfect day."
Ogier has 66 points after three rounds of the championship in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico with Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala second on 58. Neuville is fifth with 28.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)