Markko Martin, another driver to switch teams this season, like Gardemeister, rounded off the top six. The Estonian admitted that he needs more time to get use to the 307.
Mitsubishi's Gilles Panizzi suffered gear selection problems for most of the day but lies eighth, just behind the privately-entered 206 WRC of former world champion Didier Auriol. Panizzi said that the new Mitsubishi is of no comparison to last year's model despite a few issues.
"Generally I have to say I am happy. It's not possible to compare the car this year with the one I drove last year," he stated. "It is completely different and I think we are now at a very good level; we just have to sort a few small problems. We have had some trouble with the semi-automatic gear-shift today and I've had to switch to the manual system at times. The problem with the handbrake was frustrating in the last stage; half-way through it went and there was a sequence of maybe 20 or 30 hairpins where we obviously lost time. If I can get a clean run, I feel confident we can make some good times tomorrow."
Stephane Sarrazin and Roman Kresta lie just outside the points in ninth and tenth.
Skoda's Armin Schwarz and Alex Bengue both suffered daylong hydraulic problems which affected their cars' differentials and launch control systems. Bengue leads the Czech team's challenge in 12th, just behind Harri Rovanpera, the Finn competing on his first asphalt rally since October 2002.
In the Junior WRC category, Per-Gunnar Andersson leads for Suzuki, over a minute up on Kosti Katajamaki. Brit's Kris Meeke and Guy Wilks, lie third and fourth.
There were no major retirements today, although leg 1 is the shortest of the event - tomorrow in contrast is the longest. After leaving Monaco at 06.45 on Saturday, drivers face 128.48km of competition on roads in the Alpes-Maritimes. The opening test is the same as today's final two stages, but in the opposite direction. That is followed by two identical loops of two tests north-west of the Principality, including two passes in the reverse direction over the Toudon - St Antonin test used today. Competitors arrive back in Monaco at 20.01.