Craig Breen admitted he lacked confidence and struggled to get to grips with Hyundai's i20 WRC on day one of Rally Croatia.
He will start the second leg this morning in fifth place but already 56 seconds back from the leader, his Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville.
It is the reigning Irish champion's first World Championship event on tarmac for the Korean team and while he said he was enjoying the newest event to join the series, he lamented the lack of opportunity to test the car in advance.
"I got to drive the WRC car for a day so I have no real reference point from my test. We will change some things in the car for tomorrow," he said at the end of yesterday's leg.
"I thought the afternoon loop of stages was going to be better for us, but we have not been able to gain back time as we wanted. The stages are really tricky, but we are still enjoying it. We will keep trying."
Neuville led from the start yesterday but the Belgian was kept under pressure by the chasing Toyotas of Sebastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans, world champion Ogier edging past his team-mate on the final stage of the day. They are separated by less than a second and are eight seconds behind Neuville.
In fourth is Ott Tanak, 23 seconds off the lead and 22 ahead of Hyundai team-mate Breen.
Adrien Fourmaux, stepping up from the WRC2 division, completes the top six and leads the Ford challenge.
The first major casualty of the rally was Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera, the youngest driver to lead the World Championship. The Finn went off the road on the first stage, the car sliding down a steep embankment and lodging in trees.
Meanwhile, Jon Armstrong was back up to third in the WRC Junior category after dropping back to fifth with a spin on stage five.
But the Fermanagh driver recovered strongly with the second fastest time on the last stage of the day - one tenth of a second slower than Lauri Joona.
Fellow Ulsterman William Creighton was sixth on his first World Championship event, describing it as "a huge baptism".
Martin Koci was the provisional leader after stage six was cancelled due to an accident.