Peugeot started the day promisingly when Marcus Gronholm grabbed the lead on the first stage - only to have to retire when his engine's temperature went off the scale in SS2. The team later attributed the failure to a cylinder head gasket problem.
''It looked like the same problem we had in Monte Carlo but the team say it isn't,” remarked a downbeat Gronholm. “It's not a good start to the season for us - two starts and no points - and I'm sure we could have scored a good result here.''
Meanwhile Didier Auriol's 206 suffered no major problems, and was feeling slightly better after he spent much of yesterday in bed with bronchitis. He did enough to force his way into the top six after the day's longest stage.
''Sometimes my reactions are slow so I'm not pushing at maximum,” admitted Auriol. “But the times aren't bad so perhaps we can get some points.''
Harri Rovanpera completed the opening three stages with brake glitches but was nevertheless the lead Peugeot for most of the day, finishing the first leg in second overall – 13.2secs off Sainz.
''I'm not taking any risks, not doing anything stupid. The car feels fantastic and I'm learning more about it all the time,'' said the Finn.
Mitsubishi's Tommi Makinen's progress has been hampered by his position of first car on the road: He encountered a layer of fine, powdery snow in SS1 and SS3, and spectators in the road in the latter test as well. ''The spectators just couldn't hear us because of the high snow banks. I had to brake quite hard.''
The Four-times world champion encountered few mechanical problems apart from overheating tyres in the day's longest stage, the 49km of SS4. He holds fifth position heading into tomorrow's leg two.
Freddy Loix struggled to build his confidence thanks to a major spin in SS1, he also slid off the road for three minutes on SS4 and notched up road penalties in service after SS3, when the Mitsubishi mechanics had to fix a broken turbo.
The third Lancer, driven by Swede Thomas Radstrom, has by contrast run without major problems - either mechanical or driver related. Radstrom featured strongly throughout all today's stages, and despite thinking he had a puncture after a heavy landing in SS4, the Swede ended the leg an impressive third overall having lead the event earlier in the day.