Kris Meeke followed on from his victory in Argentina with a strong start to Rally Portugal, finishing the first leg in second place.
The Dungannon driver, partnered by Paul Nagle in their Abu Dhabi team Citroen DS3, trailed the Volkswagen of Finn Jari-Matti Latvala by 11 seconds with Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen four seconds further back in third in another of the VW team Polos.
Although he didn't set any fastest times on yesterday's five stages - a sixth was cancelled because of a fire in a forest - Meeke maintained his competitive pace from Argentina, posting consistent top four times as several of his close rivals struggled in the rough, dusty conditions.
"We made a mistake with our tyre choice, the stages cut up quite badly and the surface was softer than we were expecting," said Meeke. "But it has been a good day. I'm quite happy."
Ott Tanak, in Ford's new evolution Fiesta, was fourth but team-mate Elfyn Evans was a casualty, his Fiesta stooping with an electrical fault on the first stage. Hyundai's Dani Sordo held fifth place with World champion Sebastien Ogier back in sixth after his VW suffered a puncture.
But Meeke apart, it was not a good day for the Irish contingent.
Circuit of Ireland winner Craig Breen retired on the opening stage, his Peugeot suffering engine failure, and Dean Raftery's R3 Citroen stopped with a throttle problem.
Then Daniel McKenna (Citroen) went off the road on stage six. Out too went the Citroens of Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson as well as Mohamed Al Mutawaa and Stephen McAuley.
However, two other Ulster co-drivers were still in the fight, Michael Orr second in WRC2 alongside Yazeed Al Rajhi, and Marshall Clarke eighth with Abdulaziz Al Kuwari.