Sebastien Loeb made the perfect start to Rally Argentina with fastest time around the event-opening superspecial stage on the outskirts of Villa Carlos Paz.
Run in late autumn sunshine, Loeb was 0.9sec faster than Petter Solberg around the 1.8-mile gravel stage. Sebastien Ogier completed a Citroen one-two-three placing his DS3 WRC just a tenth of a second behind Solberg.
With thousands of fans pouring out of the stage, Loeb struggled to open his door to talk to the media at the end of the opening stage. When he did, he was smiling.
"This is only the preview," he grinned. "The show starts tomorrow. There's a very long way to go. I have one second, which is nothing. OK, I am happy from the start, but let's see tomorrow."
Loeb and his colleagues praised the organizers for the introduction of the superspecial stage, which was over the road from where the Pro-Racing stage (among the world's most popular superspecials) used to run before it was turned into a holiday park.
"The stage is very nice, I like this one, but we have to see tomorrow," continued the early leader.
Solberg was fired up after his broken driveshaft at shakedown this morning. He said: "I am on a mission. This stage is as important as any of them and when you want to win, you want to win everything."
Ogier added: "It's a nice feeling to start the rally with such a beautiful stage. There were so many people in there, it was nice to drive."
Ford's fastest was Jari-Matti Latvala, who was 1.5sec behind Loeb. Latvala admitted the broken gearbox he'd suffered at shakedown was at the back of his mind in SS1.
"It was a bit difficult after not such a good start at shakedown," he said, "but once I found there was good grip in the stage I was OK. I know I could do better, but it wasn't a bad start."
Mikko Hirvonen was two tenths behind his teammate with local hero Federico Villagra sixth quickest, albeit 7.2sec off the fastest time.
Ukranian driver Yuriy Protasov was fastest of the Production Car World Rally Championship runners in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.
The main competition gets under way with 99 miles of competition in six stages to the west of Villa Carlos Paz tomorrow.