The Frenchman, driving a Citroën C3 Rally2 had initially led by 7.6sec after Friday’s leg. However, seven-time Monte-Carlo starter Yoann Bonato responded immediately on Saturday’s opening speed test to steal the top spot in his similar car.
Bonato’s lead was short-lived. A stage win for Rossel on the second pass of Aspremont - La Bâtie-des-Fonts demoted him back to second.
The day-ending Chalancon - Gumiane stage was red-flagged by event organisers following WRC driver Pierre Louis Loubet’s crash and all WRC3 crews were handed notional times.
"It was a good day. It's my fourth time here, but the road conditions are very tricky after all of the WRC cars and it's definitely not easy," explained Rossel.
Asked how it feels to be leading the way in an all-Citroën top-three on home soil, he said:
“I know the other drivers from the French championship and they are really good guys, but I want to win!”.
Nicolas Ciamin was third in another C3. The Frenchman opted for a more conservative approach than his rivals, but still managed to bag a stage win on SS5, eventually ending the day 1min 36.1sec off the leading pace.
Ford Fiesta Rally2 star Hermann Neubauer was 3min 17sec behind Ciamin in fourth. The Austrian enjoyed a nip-and-tuck battle throughout the day with Cédric De Cecco, who finished 1min 4.9sec behind his rival in a Skoda Fabia Rally2.
Belgian star Davy Vanneste trailed the leaders by 9min 24.9sec to complete the top six in his Citroën.
Mauro Miele was the sole casualty on Friday. He was caught out during the icy Montauban-sur-l'Ouvèze - Villebois-les-Pins blast when his Fabia left the road.
• Full coverage from Rallye Monte-Carlo will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.