Peugeot Belgium driver Nicolas Vouilloz is in front after the first thirteen stages of the all-asphalt Madeira Rally, round five of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Vouilloz, who won the opening spectator super-special through the streets of Funchal on Thursday night, took over the lead of the rally again on SS12 after local hero Bruno Magalhaes picked up a puncture that cost him three minutes.
"It's a bit of a surprise for me to be leading; I expected to be second or third tonight," said Vouilloz in the final service. "Magalhaes was very quick all day today and I found it quite hard to follow his pace. We still have [Alexandre] Camacho close behind, who knows the roads too, so I think that tomorrow will be another big fight."
Magalhaes had earlier taken the lead on the opening stage of the day and only lost it briefly to Abarth's Giandomenico Basso, the winner in Madeira last year, before the puncture on SS12. Magalhaes now ends the opening leg of the rally in a disappointed tenth, but he is determined to fight back on Saturday.
Basso's bid to hang onto the lead, which he claimed on SS5, was defeated by a poor tyre choice during the afternoon. Believing that there was a risk of rain, Basso headed out on soft cut slicks. Instead, conditions actually became warmer and so the Italian tumbled down the order - ending up fourth at the end of the day.
Consequently local driver Alexandre Camacho moved up second to uphold Portuguese honours at the end of day one, just 3.7 seconds behind Vouilloz at the wheel of another Peugeot 207 S2000.
Completing the podium is former European champion Renato Travaglia in an Abarth Grande Punto.
Despite some fears of rain in the afternoon over the varied Madeiran asphalt stages, conditions remained dry and hot all day. The warm conditions and demanding mountain roads frequently caused tyres and brakes to overheat; a problem that particularly affected joint IRC series leader Luca Rossetti throughout the opening loop of stages. Rossetti finished proceedings in sixth - just 1.1 seconds behind Freddy Loix.
There was only major retirement - namely Brice Tirabassi, whose Peugeot stopped with an electrical problem on SS5.
The top driver in the IRC 2WD Cup is local man Miguel Nunes, at the wheel of a Peugeot 206 Super 1600. The similar car of Antonio Nunes is not far behind.
Tomorrow [Saturday] the crews will tackle another full day of rallying, comprising eight stages and 114 competitive kilometres.
IRC results after SS13:
1. Nicolas Vouilloz
Peugeot 207 S2000 1h53m12.6s
2. Alexandre Camacho
Peugeot 207 S2000 +3.7s
3. Renato Travaglia
Abarth Grande Punto +22.3s
4. Giandomenico Basso
Abarth Grande Punto +31.1s
5. Freddy Loix
Peugeot 207 S2000 +38.4s
6. Luca Rossetti
Peugeot 207 S2000 +39.5s
7. Umberto Scandola
Abarth Grande Punto +1m32.0s
8. Jose Pedro Fontes
Abarth Grande Punto +2m26.0s
9. Volkan Isik
Abarth Grande Punto +3m05.6s
10. Bruno Magalhaes
Peugeot 207 S2000 +3m07.5s