Sebastien Ogier declared his start to Rally d'Italia "perfect" as he made history in his Volkswagen Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000 and completed leg one in an astonishing fourth overall.
The former Citroen driver said he was thrilled to be among the outright frontrunners again, though he ruled out a shot at the podium.
Ogier became the first driver in a Super 2000 car to post a World Rally Championship scratch time when he won the Tergu-Osilo test on Friday. The Frenchman is 20 seconds ahead of Mini WRC driver Chris Atkinson after day one, but 3m35s behind the leader in Sardinia, Mikko Hirvonen.
"It's been the perfect day. I am happy," said Ogier. "It's nice to be fighting back near the top, it's good for me to be there. OK, we took the benefit of the strange situation when some of the other drivers had trouble, but we are here now."
Talking about his fastest time on SS5, Ogier pointed to the S2000's less voracious appetite for tyres compared to its World Rally Car rivals.
"We were all on the same tires," he said, "and it's because there's less torque in [my] car, we were able to save them a little bit. This helped with the time, but I guess I still had to look after the tire as well."
While he was pleased with his performance, Ogier admitted he was not too sure he would be able to go any higher.
"We would need the other guys to have trouble for that," he said, "and I really don't wish that on anybody."
Ogier added that the Skoda's handling had been helped by a new damper set-up that the team was experimenting with for the first time on Friday.