Henning Solberg has stolen the initiative heading into the opening leg of the 2009 Rally Portugal by winning the first stage of the event, held in the Estadio Algarve.

The Norwegian driver, who didn't even make the start of the last round in Cyprus after an accident during the road section, began making amends to edge Dani Sordo by a mere tenth of a second in a head-to-head around the stadium layout.

"It's coming better and better - this will be my rally - for sure!" the Stobart Ford driver said. "I tried very hard to concentrate in there and it felt really good - now I want to go fast on the rest of the rally."

The pair would go on to hold onto positions one and two ahead of the first proper day of action tomorrow, although Mikko Hirvonen was just a tenth further behind in third as he got the better of Sebastien Loeb in the duel most people had come to see.

"What a great start!" added Hirvonen. "The atmosphere in there was incredible. The fans are amazing and I think they appreciated us carrying the flag on the car. Having beaten Sebastien here, I don't think I need to tell anyone what my ambition is for the rest of the weekend."

Loeb was fourth quickest, ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala and Marcus Gronholm, the Finn getting his return to WRC competition off to a solid start with the sixth fastest time. Federico Villagra, Petter Solberg, Mads Ostberg and Sebastien Ogier completed the top ten.

The action resumes tomorrow with six stages totalling 134kms in distance.