The Finn moved to the top of the timesheets fifth time through the rain-hit ‘Abissaare’ test courtesy of a scratch time that totalled two minutes and 53.3 seconds. A fifth run was only possible after organisers decided to extend shakedown following a soft-role-type accident involving Takamoto Katsuta.

Thierry Neuville was second fastest but despite his promising start has made a podium the priority this weekend, insisting anything else would be a massive bonus. “I am not lying if I say it’s not my favourite event,” he said.

“The next two rallies are very difficult for us, but we are going to do our best. It’s not easy to start with the rain, but we will try to work on the car and create a good confidence for the start of the rally,” he added.

Third fastest was current Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera – no real surprise given he grew up on gravel roads back in his native Finland. But despite running an uprated engine in his GR Yaris Rally1 car – like the rest of his Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mates – he knows that that alone might not be enough to make it back-to-back Estonia victories.

“Hopefully, the rain will help us a bit this weekend,” said Rovanpera. “For sure, all the places with loose gravel are quite slippery – even with the rain – but let’s see how it is tomorrow.”

Hometown hero Ott Tanak went fourth quickest on run number three of four, a second down on his Hyundai colleague Neuville and six tenths in arrears of Rovanpera. Much of the attention will be on the 2020 event winner this weekend, although he insist he isn’t fazed by it.

“It’s great to have a rally at home because we get to have the amazing fans and those close to us around us,” he said, “but there is no extra pressure, we just want to score as many points as possible. We will try our best and do everything we can to finish in the top positions.”

Elfyn Evans (Toyota) and Oliver Solberg (Hyundai) slotted in at fifth and sixth. Down in seventh was Craig Breen - the first of the M-Sport Ford drivers. A runner-up at the event in the past, the Irishman remains confident he can end his long-wait for a first World Rally Championship victory come Sunday lunchtime despite the forecast for the weekend being largely unsettled.

"It's obviously going to be a different rally this week compared to what we've seen in recent years," he said. "I'm looking forward to it and the car feels great."

Ninth, tenth and eleventh were the Puma Rally1 cars belonging to Gus Greensmith, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Adrien Fourmaux who all made it safely through shakedown and back to service in Tartu. One crew that didn't manage that was Takamoto Katsuta and Aaron Johnston who rolled off the road one kilometre into their fourth attempt at the stage. Despite this, they still managed to rank eighth.

Their GR Yaris Rally1 car suffered heavy fontal damage in the accident and their Toyota mechanics now face a race against time to have it repaired for the start this evening.

A Super Special Stage on Thursday (6.38pm) kicks off the action at Rally Estonia. Friday is the longest day of the event, with two passes each of Peipsiääre, Mustvee, Raanitsa and Vastsemõisa, with Saturday comprising two loops of four new stages, followed by another pass of the Tartu super special stage.

The high-speed event concludes on Sunday as the crews tackle Tartu Vald, Kanepi and Kambja twice.