Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen finished ahead of his Volkswagen Motorsport teammate and championship leader Sebastien Ogier in the opening stages of the Rally of Australia on Thursday.
After the opening two special stages, Mikkelsen led Britain's Kris Meeke, in a Citroen, by 0.9 seconds with Ogier fourth some 1.5 secs down on the leader.
Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen) was lying third with compatriot Citroen driver Mikko Hirvonen in fifth.
All the leading drivers complained of slippery conditions on the super special stage after it had been watered to control dust around the Coffs Harbour circuit on the north coast of the state of New South Wales.
"I expected it to be difficult, but it was a fun stage. It's already quite rough but also slippery - I just have to avoid making mistakes," Ogier said.
Ogier, who has won five of the nine FIA World Rally Championship rounds run so far this year, leads the standings by 75 points from Ford driver Thierry Neuville of Belgium.
To secure the title this weekend Ogier must pick up nine points more than Neuville and one more than his Volkswagen teammate Latvala, who is currently third.
The Rally of Australia will cover just over 350 kilometres before the podium in Coffs Harbour on Sunday.