Juho Hanninen has taken the lead of the Monte Carlo Rally on the first day of Skoda's return as a factory team.
The Finn didn't take any stage wins during the opening day of this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge, but his consistency through the leg's three stages has given him an 12-second lead over Stephane Sarrazin (Peugeot).
As the stage conditions varied from snow, through ice, to totally dry, Hanninen remained on non-studded tyres all day and emerged at the head of the field.
Sarrazin had struggled on normal tyres in SS1, losing nearly a minute to the leaders, but switched to studs for the next stage and duly set the fastest time. That vaulted him from seventh to second, and he continued to close on Hanninen in the final stage.
Reigning champion Nicolas Vouilloz (Peugeot) was quickest in SS1, but has now slipped to third, ahead of fellow 207 drivers Sebastien Ogier and Freddy Loix. Stage three winner Kris Meeke completes the early top six in the Peugeot UK entry.
Former World Rally champion Didier Auriol crashed out in the icy opening stage, as did Abarth's Luca Rossetti. The latter's teammate Anton Alen ran in the top four at first before being delayed by a puncture.
Giandomenico Basso is currently the leading Abarth driver in seventh, despite a handful of spins. Toni Gardemeister's Astra-run Abarth was third after SS1, but transmission problems subsequently dropped him to eighth.
Interwetten Mitsubishi's Franz Wittmann is the best of the Group N runners in ninth, while rally leader Hanninen's Skoda teammate Jan Kopecky is back in 10th place following power steering glitches.
Kris Meeke took a gamble on tyre choice which cost him time in the morning, but he set the fastest time of all on the day's final stage to climb to sixth overall in his Peugeot.
Leading positions after leg one:
Pos Driver Car Time
1. Juho Hanninen Skoda 56:32.8
2. Stephane Sarrazin Peugeot + 11.9
3. Nicolas Vouilloz Peugeot + 33.9
4. Sebastien Ogier Peugeot + 49.3
5. Freddy Loix Peugeot + 54.6
6. Kris Meeke Peugeot +1:01.3
7. Giandomenico Basso Abarth +1:29.8
8. Toni Gardemeister Abarth +1:35.5
9. Franz Wittmann Mitsubishi +3:31.2
10. Jan Kopecky Skoda +4:30.0