New World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier topped every stage of the opening night of the Rally of Spain to open up an 8.8-second lead over Jari-Matti Latvala.
Ogier flew out of the blocks to go fastest on the 14.5-mile opener through Querol and continued to pull away as temperatures dropped on the Catalan stages, causing the roads to become increasingly damp as the sun set.
Citroen's Dani Sordo was Ogier's closest challenger over the first pair of stages, but deliberately slowed close to the end of the SS3, costing himself six seconds and dropping to third in order to gain a more favourable road position for the second day's running.
Sordo's tactical move promoted Latvala to second, ensuring that Volkswagens held the top two positions overnight. Behind Sordo – 12.6sec off the lead – lie Thierry Neuville's M-Sport Ford and Mikko Hirvonen's Citroen.
Andreas Mikkelsen, with regular co-driver Mikko Markkula now back alongside him after recovering from injury, lost sixth to the charging Evgeny Novikov's M-Sport Ford on the second stage. But the Norwegian bounced back with the third-fastest time on SS3 to nab back sixth by just 0.7sec. Mikkelsen is only 0.5sec behind Hirvonen.
Hayden Paddon, who is making his World Rally Car debut on this event, held eighth for the opening two stages in his Fiesta, but was passed by the similar car of Mads Ostberg on SS3. Ostberg said his pace had been hampered by using a long-ratio gearbox more commonly used on high-speed asphalt events.
Martin Prokop, who missed a junction late on SS3, completed the top 10, with Robert Kubica 11th and leading the WRC2 class easily. The ex-Formula 1 driver only needs to finish in the top two in the category to clinch the title. Britain's Elfyn Evans is more than 50sec behind already.
Leading positions after SS3:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier VW 34m39.9s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala VW +8.8s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen +12.6s
4. Thierry Neuville M-Sport Ford +19.1s
5. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen +27.3s
6. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +27.8s
7. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford +28.5s
8. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Ford +1m07.7s
9. Hayden Paddon M-Sport Ford +1m09.0s
10. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +1m13.0s