Kris Meeke ended the first two stages of Rally Monte Carlo in overall first place, stealing the lead from Sebastien Ogier by topping the second run.
Citroen's Meeke looked set to go fastest in the opening stage only to spin at a hairpin and lose around seven seconds, gifting Volkswagen's Ogier the top spot.
He then outpaced the Frenchman by 11 seconds in SS2 to head the field as the first day of WRC competition in 2016 concluded.
Ogier ended up second, leading fellow VW teammate Andres Mikkelsen, who was exactly 20 seconds slower than Meeke.
The top five was completed by Hyundai duo Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon, the latter still driving the old-spec i20 and narrowly beating M-Sport’s Mads Ostberg by 0.4s.
Despite running level with his Volkswagen teammates early on, Jari-Matti Latvala had to settle for seventh after hitting a rock in the second stage, which cost around 20 seconds.
The top 10 was completed by former F1 driver Robert Kubica, Meeke’s teammate Stephane Lefebvre and the third Hyundai driver Dani Sordo.
Standings after SS2:
|Pos.||Driver / Co-Driver||Car||Time/Delay|
Thierry NeuvilleNicolas Gilsoul