Sebastien Ogier topped two of the three afternoon stages on Day 1 of Rally Wales, but couldn't break away from Citroen's Kris Meeke.
Meeke was crucially fastest during the second run through Hafren, the longest stage of the event.
The Citroen driver managed to shave off 5.2s in that run alone, but Ogier responded and topped the final test of the day, restoring the status quo.
Despite strong pace, Meeke is focussing on Citroen's battle against Hyundai for second place in the manufacturer’s championship and, with Mads Ostberg sitting fourth, things are looking promising for the French team.
"[Ogier] is not the target to be honest. I was able to cope with the polished surface much better than before. I had a good run," said Meeke.
Andreas Mikkelsen completed a calm day in third but the Norwegian is aiming to challenge for the rally win further down the road.
A victory and two points in the Power Stage would allow Mikkelsen to take second place in the WRC standings, following Jari-Matti Latvala’s retirement in the morning.
"The grip is changing all the time," Mikkelsen said. "Sometimes it is there, sometimes it isn't. Trying to drive on the limit when it's like that is very challenging! For me, the new target is second in the championship."
Leading Hyundai driver Dani Sordo inherited fifth after Elfyn Evans’ home rally took a bad turn.
The Welshman lost over a minute due to a puncture, dropping to eighth behind teammate Ott Tanak and Hayden Paddon, the latter also suffering a woeful afternoon, which featured a spin and hydraulic issues.
Results after Day 1:
|Pos.||Driver / Co-Driver||Car||Time/Delay|