Mikko Hirvonen leads the Rally of Portugal after the opening superspecial in Lisbon. The Ford driver was 1.3sec quicker than Sebastien Loeb's Citroen around the 3.27-kilometer stage.
Although the superspecial was criticized by some drivers as it is some distance from the rest of the route and proved extremely slippery, Hirvonen had no complaints.
"A very nice stage. Lots of people were really enjoying it and having good fun," he said. "You don't have any place to warm the tires or brakes so it's a bit tricky, but it's the same for everybody. We had a good time."
Petter Solberg (Solberg Citroen), Sebastien Ogier (Citroen) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) complete the initial top five, with Munchi's Ford's Federico Villagra in sixth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's Ice 1 Citroen. The most significant incident of the stage was an error by Mads Ostberg, who ripped a wheel from his Stobart Ford and lost nearly two minutes, leaving the Norwegian furious with himself.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "How is it possible to be that stupid? It was just a stupid thing on cold tires. I have enough experience to know that, so why I did it, I don't know. A disconnection between the ears..."
His teammates Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg are eighth and ninth.
Just behind them, Mini's return to top-level rallying got off to an outstanding start as local hero Armindo Araujo set the 10th-fastest time overall on the S2000 Mini's debut, beating all the other cars in class and several WRC runners.
Leading positions after SS1:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 2m49.6s
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 1.3s
3. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 2.1s
4. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 2.9s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 3.7s
6. Federico Villagra Munchi's Ford + 3.9s
7. Kimi Raikkonen Ice 1 Citroen + 5.1s
8. Matthew Wilson Stobart Ford + 6.2s
9. Henning Solberg Stobart Ford + 6.5s
10. Armindo Araujo Italia Mini + 8.0s