Eight-time reigning champion Sebastien Loeb topped the leaderboard after the first day of the World Rally Championship's season-opening event in Monte Carlo.
The French Citroen driver won three of Wednesday's four stages to establish a lead of one minute four seconds after Finnish rival Jari-Matti Latvala crashed out.
Latvala won the second stage and was in first place going into stage four only to role his Ford, which forced his retirement.
As a result Spain's Dani Sordo (Mini) was second with Norway's Petter Solberg (Ford) third overall just one second further back.
France's Sebastien Ogier (S2000 Skoda) and Russian driver Novikov Evgeny (M-Sport Ford) completed the top five.
Meanwhile, Irish driver Craig Breen is in second place in SWRC (Super 2000 category) after the opening day and 14th overall.