Ott Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja dropped from third place to sixth at Rally de Portugal Friday, thanks mainly to a ruptured tire on the Ford Puma.
"The morning went better than expected," Tänak said earlier in the day, at a time when he was still in third place.
However, at the start of stage four, a ruptured tire on the M-Sport Ford Puma left the Estonian in sixth place and a minute behind the leaders.
"In general, it has been a very trying afternoon," Tänak, 35, from Saaremaa, said later.
"The morning was a bit messy, but we are quite satisfied to have made it to the finish line at the end of the day. We weren't sure in the afternoon that we would be able to do so, but we did. Of course, the flat tire didn't help much, but we're still happy to be here," he continued.
The standings after Friday see reigning champ Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) in the lead (1:22.27.7), followed by a pair of Hyundai drivers, Spaniard Dani Sordo (+10.8) and Thierry Neuville of Belgium (+26.04), followed by Tänak's teammate at M-Sport Ford, French driver Pierre-Louis Loubet (+26.9). Toyota driver Esapekka Lappi (Finland) is fifth, followed by Tänak.
Thursday's leader, Elfyn Evans (Wales, Toyota) came to grief after leaving the track Friday, giving his teammate a way in, something which also entails acting as track cleaner at the gravelly, sandy course around Porto.
Despite finishing the day in fourth, Loubet, who won the opening stage, found himself having to deploy the in-car fire extinguisher on stage three due to engine trouble.
Rally de Portugal is round five of the 2023 WRC season, and Tänak lay in fourth place in the drivers' table going into the race weekend.
Saturday's stages started a little after 9.30 a.m. Estonian time.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Siim Boikov