Ott Tanak won the first two stages of the Arctic Rally on Friday, to end the opening day 16.2 seconds ahead of Hyundai team-mate Craig Breen.
The Estonian had already set the fastest time in the shakedown, and was quickest in the snow in the two tyre-punishing stages run after nightfall.
Irishman Breen was second in the opening stage and third in the second one.
Young Finn Kalle Rovanpera drove his Toyota into a snowbank on the first stage but still finished third and went one better in the closing stage to end the day third 20.4 seconds back.
Tanak said the surface was demanding.
"I tried to be very nice to the tyres at the beginning and after 10km I thought 'the tyres were finished 'and I knew there was still 20km to go," he said. "I tried to be as nice as possible, but it was difficult, it's just such a hard surface."
"The stage is in really bad condition with a lot of gravel, so my front tyres are completely gone and I lost a lot of time at the end. If somebody can manage their tyres really good, they will be really quick," said the Finn.
Reigning world champion Sebastien Ogier, who won the season opening Monte-Carlo Rally, was ninth in both stages and finished the day ninth overall, nearly 50 seconds behind Tanak.
"I did what I could but it was quite difficult," said the French Toyota driver. "We'll see what we can do tomorrow, but it looks like we will be quite far away already."
On Saturday, six special stages are on the programme over 144km through the snow-covered forests of Lapland.
The Arctic Rally replaces Rally Sweden, which was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.