Sebastien Loeb moved past Sebastien Ogier to take the lead of the Monte Carlo Rally at the end of the opening loop.
Ogier had announced the new Volkswagen's potential in emphatic fashion by setting the pace on the World Rally season's first stage, Le Moulinon to Antraigues. But Loeb restored the usual order by going quickest on Burzet to St Martial, beating Ogier by 10 seconds. That puts Loeb's Citroen into the lead by 6.7sec heading to service.
Conditions on both Wednesday morning stages have been a mix of ice, snow and totally dry conditions, causing tire wear headaches as the rubber wears in the snow-free areas.
Loeb and Ogier are already a long way clear of the rest of the field, with Dani Sordo is 39s adrift in third place in the next Citroen.
Juho Hanninen has also been a star of the first morning. The former Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion is the best of the Fords so far in fourth, despite clipping a bridge on SS2. Hanninen, who only has a two-round programme secured so far, is just 5sec behind Sordo.
Thierry Neuville, Mikko Hirvonen and 2011 Monte winner Bryan Bouffier (on his top-class WRC debut) are closely matched in fifth, sixth and seventh.
Jari-Matti Latvala's VW debut got off to a tough start. The Finn is over a minute behind teammate Ogier in 10th place, and was late to the SS2 start after road section delays.
Leading positions after SS2:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 52m38.2s
2. Sebastien Ogier VW + 6.7s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 39.6s
4. Juho Hanninen Qatar M-Sport Ford + 44.7s
5. Thierry Neuville Qatar M-Sport Ford + 53.3s
6. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 54.2s
7. Bryan Bouffier PH Citroen + 56.9s
8. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport Ford + 1m09.5s
9. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport Ford + 1m09.9s
10. Jari-Matti Latvala VW + 1m25.6s