Ott Tanak was in control of the Rally of Italy at the end of Friday's racing, leading Dani Sordo by 19 seconds while Sebastien Ogier was third after slipping off the pace in the Sardinian dust.
Hyundai driver Tanak recorded the best times in each of Friday's first five stages and is ahead of Sordo by 19.4sec, with seven-time world champion Ogier 36sec behind Tanak.
Ogier, who leads the overall standings with 94 points, nine ahead of Elfyn Evans and 24 in front of Tanak, was happy with his early running as he opened the road on the dirt and gravel.
"Given all that dust we have to be pleased with how we finished the day," said the seven time world champion.
Tanak was happy to start later because he is lower down the driver standings.
"I had a very smooth, clean run, and obviously a better road position than the guys in front of me," he said.
A further eight stages will be raced Saturday.
The rally ends on Sunday with three special stages plus a climatic power stage in which additional championship points will be up for grabs.
Standings from the Rally of Italy in Sardinia after Friday's racing:
1. Ott Tanak-Martin Jarveoja (EST/Hyundai) 1hr 26min 58sec, 2. Dani Sordo-Borja Rozada (ESP/Hyundai) at 19.4, 3. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Toyota) 36.2, 4. Elfyn Evans-Scott Martin (GBR/Toyota) 1:02.0, 5. Thierry Neuville-Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL/Hyundai) 1:03.2, 6. Takamoto Katsuta-Daniel Barritt (JPN-GBR/Toyota) 1:26.1, 7. Mads Ostberg-Torstein Eriksen (NOR/Citroen C3) 3:41.7
Best times in special stages:
Tanak 4 (SS1 to SS5), Sordo 3 (SS6, SS7, SS8 tied), Neuville 1 (ES8 tied)