Ford's Petter Solberg has taken the early lead on Rally Mexico after setting the pace in the Guanajuato Street Stage.

The Norwegian, who was quickest in qualifying earlier in the day, outgunned his rivals to win the short 1.05 km test in the UNESCO World Heritage city by 0.4 seconds.

"The qualifying stage was the first time I had driven the Fiesta RS WRC competitively on gravel and it was fantastic to be fastest. To then win the first stage in front of these huge crowds was a very special moment. It meant a lot to me and the whole Ford team," said Solberg.

Sebastien Loeb meanwhile had to settle for second, 0.2 seconds up on Mads Ostberg's Fiesta RS WRC: "The atmosphere here is amazing," said Loeb. "It is great to start like this. The stage is very slippery though but only 1km. Tomorrow will be different with a 54km stage."

Mikko Hirvonen was fourth, while Jari-Matti Latvala and Ott Tanak tie for fifth, both exactly 1 second behind 'Hollywood'.

"It is crazy how much spectators there are. It is really something special. This is the best ceremonial start. Let's see how we can do!" Tanak commented.

Further back, Chris Atkinson came in seventh on his first WRC outing since 2009 and his first ever competitive run in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

WRC Team MINI Portugal man Armindo Araujo rounds out the top eight, with Thierry Neuville and Nasser Al-Attiyah joint ninth. Of the rest, Sebastien Ogier lies just outside the top ten in his VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000, with Evgeny Novikov twelfth and PWRC leader Nicolas Fuchs 13th.

Ken Block is 20th after hitting a wall and damaging the front left lamp pod: "It wasn't really that bad, I just caught the front," Block said. "This whole thing in Guanajauto is awesome! Thanks to all our fans for coming out."

The action now gets underway 'proper' on Friday, with SS2, the 22.12km El Cubilete 1 test, starting at 08.08 hours local time (14.08 hours UK time - 6 hour time difference).

Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 1 (Top 10):

1. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC 00mins 53.7secs M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 00.4secs M
3. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 00.6secs M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 00.8secs M
5. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 01.0secs M
= Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 01.0secs M
7. Chris Atkinson Monster WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 01.5secs
8. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +00mins 01.7secs
9. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 01.9secs M
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 01.9secs M


11. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 02.4secs
12. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 03.5secs M
13. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 03.7secs P
14. Kevin Abbring VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 04.0secs
16. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +00mins 05.3secs
20. Ken Block Monster WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 06.8secs

PWRC standings after Stage 1 - Top 3:

1. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 57.4secs P
2. Benito Guerra Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 01.1secs P
3. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 01.8secs P

Notable retirements:

DNS. Henning Solberg Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC Did not start

all times unofficial