Timo Salonen, of Finland, ignored heavy rain, which made conditions slippery on the Sierra Nevada roads, to complete the stage in 2hr 10min 33sec. His team-mate and compatriot, Ari Vatanen, a four-time winner, was 3min 2sec behind in second place. France's Pierre Lartigue, the titleholder, was a further 38sec back in third.
Mitsubishi took the next three spots through the French pair Jean-Pierre Fontenay (9:53 behind) and Bruno Saby (11:48) and Japan's Kenjiro Shinozuka (12:17). Saby, winner of the event in 1993, was forced to drive for 60 miles with a flat tyre after suffering two punctures in two miles.
Salvador Servia, of Spain, in a Citroen, was seventh after being hampered by a defective wiper, which forced him to drive at slow speeds for much of the stage. His co-driver used string to work the wiper but it was not enough to lift them into the top group. They were 28.03 behind.
In the motorcycle rally, the Austrian Heinz Kinigadner, a two-time world motocross champion, showed his liking for rain finishing in 2:18.29.
Riding a KTM, he was 48sec ahead of the French three-time winner Stephane Peterhansel, on a Yamaha. Italy's Edi Orioli had problems with the weather and his Cagiva crossed the finishing line more than 10min behind Kinigadner.
The 247 competitors travel by overnight ferry from Spain to Nador in Morocco for the first African leg of the rally, today's 619km second stage to Er Rachidia.