Buenos Aires:Finnish driver Mikko Hirvonen drove his Ford to first place in a 2.4-kilometer super special test, finishing in 2 minutes, 8.3 seconds on Thursday's opening day of the Argentine Rally.
On a course set up at River Plate's famed Monumental soccer stadium, compatriot Marcus Gronholm, also driving a Ford, finished second 0.6 seconds behind, and Spaniard Dani Sordo was just 0.8 seconds back.
In fourth, Norway's Petter Solberg finished 1.5 seconds behind, tied with France's Sebastien Loeb.
Loeb, the three-time world rally champion, won the Portuguese Rally last Sunday, beating Gronholm by 37.1 seconds for a 38-point total, one point ahead of his rival.
The Argentine Republic Rally is the sixth event of the year and continues on Friday on the traditional hill circuits of Cordoba in central Argentina before concluding Sunday.
In a novel step, the opening special stage was held in Buenos Aires instead of Cordoba, where rugged outdoor hill circuits of rough dirt roads, steep ascents and washouts await the drivers.
Following Thursday's special test, the cars were loaded on trucks to be taken overnight 650 kilometers to the central province for Friday's start. The racers were traveling ahead on chartered jets.