Ott Tänak rose on place to seventh going into day three of Rally Italia Sardegna Saturday.
Tänak and his Estonian co-driver Martin Järveoja won the event last year with Hyundai, and the pair are now with M-Sport Ford.
The Estonian lies 0.2 seconds behind leader Esapekka Lappi (Finland, Hyundai). Lappi is followed by Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) and Thierry Neuville (Hyundai).
Tänak went into day two of the rally in eighth after Thursday's initial stage.
He rose as high as sixth on stage three on Friday, but in the second half of the day struggled with technical issues and dropped back to seventh.
After the last stage on Friday, Tänak said: "We lost the water pump right at the very beginning and finally cooked the engine. In some places the pump started working again, but then we had no pressure and no power in the engine, so we're happy just to have reached the finish line."
Rally Sardinia continues Saturday and is already underway at the time of writing, with the first stage having started at 9.05 a.m.
Eight stages of 133.6km in length take place on the penultimate day, ie. Saturday.
The rally is held on narrow, twisty, sandy and bumpy mountain roads in the North of the island.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Henrik Laever, Kristjan Kallaste