European Rally Championship leader Jan Kopecky only managed the fourth-fastest time on the Croatia Rally's opening superspecial as local driver Juraj Sebalj led.
As the only regular ERC frontrunner entered for this event, works Skoda man Kopecky is tipped to dominate.
But he was 1.6 seconds off the pace on the 1.053-mile car park based curtain-raiser in Porec.
Sebalj's nearest rival was South African teenager Henk Lategan, who was 0.9s behind.
Sometime Super 2000 World Rally Championship contender Herrmann Gassner Jr hauled his Production class Mitsubishi into a surprise overall third.
Fifth-placed Belgian duo Bernd Casier and Pieter Tsjoen are sharing a single Skoda for their ERC return, alternating between driving and co-driving duties.
An attempt to do this in Ypres was prevented by a pre-rally engine failure.