Toyota Gazoo Racing Australia's Harry Bates and John McCarthy took the honours on an action-packed opening day after claiming three stage wins, including the Super Special Stages at Raleigh Raceway.
“It was rough and difficult, but we had a nice day, the GR Yaris was brilliant all day,” Bates reflected.
New Zealand pairing Hayden Paddon and John Kennard took the opening two stages, with the 2022 Rally New Zealand WRC2 class-winning duo going onto end the day 2.5s clear of Bates/McCarthy, before being issued with a 30-second penalty to find themselves in third.
After notching up victories in SS3-McRaes II and SS5-Newry I, Nathan Quinn and David Green were elevated to second.
ARC title contenders Lewis Bates and Anthony McLoughlin found themselves in fourth, with the pairing needing to move up the standings to remain in the fight for the Possum Bourne Memorial Trophy.
In the ARC Production Cup, Taylor Gill and Daniel Brkic led Jamie Luff and Bradley Luff, Dean Ridge and Phillip Bonser headed Josh Wiedman and Nicholas Tied in the ARC 2WD Cup, while Ian Griffin and Liam Bainton lead the ARC Classic Cup Standings.
The title is likely to be decided based on which of the Bates brothers finishes higher in the Power Stage SS14 – Moleton II.
As it stands, Harry is one point ahead of Lewis, heading into the Power Stage, with bonus points on offer for the top five finishers in that stage.
Paddon and Kennard commenced Sunday by clean-sweeping the opening three stages, with victory in SS9-Corindi North I, SS10-Store Road 1 and SS-Moleton I.
Three stages remain in the 2022 ARC season, with SS12-Corindi North II to begin at 12:51 AEDT.