Robert Kubica posted the fastest time on the Rally Italy shakedown stage.
Kubica's M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC was a tenth of a second faster than world championship leader Sebastien Ogier's Volkswagen Polo across the 2.60-mile Putifigari stage.
Kubica benefited from cleaner conditions at shakedown after he elected to run further down the order in an attempt to mirror the conditions he will be greeted with when the mainstay of the action starts on Friday.
"I had quite a good feeling straight away and the grip was better than I expected," said Kubica.
"It helped that we waited to let the others go because I'll be at the back of the start order tomorrow so there was no point in running at the front on a fresh road.
"The stage had a bit of everything, but was maybe lacking high speed corners which we will get during the next days.
"There were narrow parts and bumps but generally it was a lower speed stage rather than a high speed one."
The top three drivers were split by just three tenths of a second, with VW men Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala a tenth and two tenths down on the Pole respectively.
Volkswagen's shakedown was not entirely straightforward, however. Norwegian driver Andreas Mikkelsen stopped for one minute with an electrical fault on his first run. His second shot at the stage was good enough for fifth fastest.
Henning Solberg slotted in between the VWs in fourth.
Britain's Kris Meeke placed his Citroen sixth with top Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville seventh.
This week's AUTOSPORT magazine - available in shops and online - features an in-depth interview with Robert Kubica about his career, Formula 1 and rallying
Leading shakedown times: Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Robert Kubica M-Sport Ford 3m35.4s 2. Sebastien Ogier VW 3m35.5s +0.1s 3. Jari-Matti Latvala VW 3m35.7s +0.3s 4. Henning Solberg M-Sport Ford 3m35.9s +0.5s 5. Andreas Mikkelsen VW 3m36.4s +1.0s 6. Kris Meeke Citroen 3m38.8s +3.4s 7. Thierry Neuville Hyundai 3m38.9s +3.5s 8. Juho Hanninen Hyundai 3m39.6s +4.2s 9. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford 3m39.8s +4.4s 10. Mads Ostberg Citroen 3m40.5s +5.1s