Kris Meeke is fending off the two works Skodas by just under four seconds after the opening loop of stages on Rally Islas Canarias.
Peugeot UK driver Meeke won SS1, before Skoda's Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky claimed a fastest time apiece on the following two stages. The pair are now 3.7sec and 3.8sec, respectively, behind Meeke as they head for mid-morning service.
"Seems to be a bit of a race on," said Meeke. "These stages provide so much grip, and on your first run you have to be careful you don't over-commit. It's easy to over-step the mark. It's going to be close all rally."
Guy Wilks was third on SS1 in the Skoda UK car, but is now 13sec adrift in fourth, having struggled with a brake issue on SS2 and then oversteer on SS3.
Peugeot Portugal driver Bruno Magalhaes had been a close fourth at first, until a transmission problem slowed him on SS3, leaving him sixth behind Spanish Skoda driver Alberto Hevia. Magalhaes is confident the issue can be fixed in service.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Kris Meeke Peugeot 28m18.6s
2. Juho Hanninen Skoda + 3.7s
3. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 3.8s
4. Guy Wilks Skoda + 13.3s
5. Alberto Hevia Skoda + 26.6s
6. Bruno Magalhaes Peugeot + 31.0s
7. Sergio Vallejo Ford + 34.0s
8. Thierry Neuville Peugeot + 34.6s
9. Franz Wittmann Peugeot + 42.3s
10. Jose Suarez Mitsubishi + 2m08.5s