Sébastien Ogier leads by 33.6s at the end of day one of the Tour de Corse.
The defending WRC champion dominated throughout Friday’s four stages and leads title rival Thierry Neuville who leads the chasing pack in second.
Ogier won the first three stages of the event and manages to lead in comfortable fashion despite suffering from a handling issue with the M-Sport Fiesta.
He said on the day’s action: ““We pushed hard all day, it’s a great start. I was surprised with my time in the first stage as it wasn’t perfect. I had the same kind of oversteer I had in the first round in Monte-Carlo.”
Neuville trails Ogier with the Belgian also having suffered issues on day one of the rally as his Hyundai hit brake problems on the opening pair of stages on Friday morning before he recovered into second overall.
Rounding out the top three is Kris Meeke in the leading Citroen C3 who is a further 5.1s adrift of Neuville, while Ott Tänak lies fourth at the end of day one to make it four different manufactures in the top four positions.
Meeke’s teammate, nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb looked set to be the closest challenger to Ogier this weekend, but he went off the road on stage two and slid into a deep ditch forcing him to retire from the remainder of the day’s action. Loeb plans to restart tomorrow under Rally2 rules on his second event of 2018.
Stage four winner Esapekka Lappi is in fifth at the end of Friday and the Fin managed to leapfrog both Elfyn Evans, this weekend driving with stand-in co-drive Phil Mills and Dani Sordo in the process. The three drivers are separated by just 0.9 seconds going into day two. Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen and Bryan Bouffier round out the top 10 overall.
WRC2 meanwhile sees Jan Kopecký leading Citroen driver Yoann Bonato and Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby, while Terry Folb leads the JWRC class ahead of Jean-Baptiste Franceschi and Emil Bergkvist going into tomorrow’s six stages, with 136.9km of stage miles awaiting the crews.