Sebastien Loeb's Monte Carlo Rally lead grew to 1m35s on Thursday afternoon as main rival Sebastien Ogier insisted he was happy to let the Citroen win.
With Loeb only contesting four rounds this year, Volkswagen driver Ogier is adamant that he "doesn't care" if his compatriot beats him provided his full-season rivals are behind.
Ogier is achieving his goal comfortably at present, with a 1m03s cushion over Dani Sordo's third-place Citroen.
Evgeny Novikov is still challenging Sordo, but the gap fluctuated during Thursday afternoon and now stands at 15s.
Loeb was quickest on two of the loop's three stages, on which the first pass had cleared much of the snow from the course.
The other stage win was taken by Juho Hanninen, the first time the former Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion had been quickest on a World Rally stage.
But having not competed in a World Rally Car for six years, Hanninen admitted he was still inconsistent, and fell away from sixth-placed Jari-Matti Latvala again at the end of the day.
Mikko Hirvonen's midday set-up changes made scant difference to his pace or morale and he is still fifth.
Mads Ostberg was also unhappy with his pace as he lost eighth place to Bryan Bouffier.