The Finn and the Frenchman mastered the freezing conditions in Chailley, eastern France, to deliver identical times in the 3.5-kilometre prologue. They completed the circuit in 3min 3sec in their ZX cars - a good omen for Vatanen, who has won the race four times.
'More than anything else, I was trying to be careful,' Lartigue said. 'The ground was hard as concrete.'
The Mitsubishis, who filled the top three places in last year's Paris-Cape Town Rally were only one second behind. The Frenchman Bruno Saby and Germany's Erwin Weber led the charge, finishing with the same time as a third Citroen ZX driven by last year's winner, Hubert Auriol, of France.
The 66 cars and 46 bikes left the start in sub-zero temperatues in Paris at 6am. The first stage proper, from Fez to Beni Ounif, starts in Morocco on Tuesday.Reuse content