Local hero Erik Cais and co-driver Daniel Trunkát led the contenders out for the opening stage – the 2.55 km Velká Chuchle super special in Prague’s celebrated trotting track. A capacity crowd enjoyed the spectacle of the mixture of tight gravel and fast newly-laid asphalt. Championship favourite Kalle Rovanperä set a blistering pace despite knocking off a door mirror on the tight chicanes, as did team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Takamoto Katsuta, but the fastest time belonged to Ott Tänak in the M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid, leading the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid of rally legend Sébastien Ogier with the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid of Thierry Neuville third. Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi put in a strong run but his time was stymied by a 10-second jump start penalty.
#69 Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) / Jonne Halttonen (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
"It was not the best start, we were in the regroup and then the timing changed… not the best relaxed feeling. Anyway the stage went fine. I have a racehorse myself, with my friends, so I’ve seen her running on the track but I’ve never been driving there myself. It was fun.”
#33 Elfyn Evans (GBR) / Scott Martin (GBR), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
"It doesn’t mean so much just at the moment. Better grip than I expected but all okay. I didn’t really see (the fans) It was all a bit of a panic with these short, tight turn-rounds (between stages).”
#11 Thierry Neuville (BEL) / Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
"It’s a good start, then, but there are some more guys to come behind. We had a good stage. We’re going to go for it, there’s a championship fight going at the front so the rhythm will be high but we know that on Tarmac usually we are fast and if we feel good in the car we will go for it and hopefully enjoy the weekend and bring home a first place.”
#8 Ott Tänak (EST) / Martin Järveoja (EST), Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid
"I made my choice (on taking soft tyres) and I mean yeah, the way the super special stage is it won’t be much different (between compounds).”
#17 Sébastien Ogier (FRA) / Vincent Landais (FRA), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
"I think it’s never easy to win any rally but this one is new and conditions seem to be challenging tomorrow so we’ll see.”
#4 Esapekka Lappi (FIN) / Janne Ferm (FIN), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
"Well today will be really nice, it will be quite clean track, maybe some dampness but anyway good for the spectators. Tomorrow is another story, it’s going to be very challenging: very fast but narrow.”
#18 Takamoto Katsuta (JPN) / Aaron Johnston (IRL), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid
“It’s kind of a track stage, it was fine but of course obviously not quite the correct tyre for this one. I think everybody is similar but let’s see on the next one if it’s going to be raining or not.”
#7 Pierre-Louis Loubet (FRA) / Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL), Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid
“It was a good start, let’s say it was a proper stage, not easy to find the confidence in. On full wets it wasn’t the best idea but the rally will be long.”
#13 Grégoire Munster (LUX) / Louis Louka (BEL), Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid
“It’s just about learning like now, first time with cross tyres on dry tarmac, so good learning. A fan gave us (a lucky four-leaf clover) so nothing bad can happen!”
#31 Erik Cais (CZE) / Daniel Trunkát (CZE), Škoda Fabia Rally2
"It’s an incredible feeling and I’m happy that the weather stays sunshine because it’s just incredible to have this autumn (weather) and start the WRC in the Czech Republic. It’s a childhood dream.”
#20 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) / Torstein Eriksen (NOR), Skoda Fabia RS
"It's gone well for us so far. We were able to win the stage in WRC2 and are leading by 0.3 seconds. We are trying to defend the lead. I liked the first stage a lot. The fans could overlook everything."
#21 Yohan Rossel (FRA) / Arnaud Dunand (FRA), Citroën C3
"We are on roads a lot. But for the fans it's a great way to get to know my sport. The first stage was probably the easiest of the whole rally. The tracks are not easy. Our plan is not to make any mistakes."
#22 Gus Greensmith (GBR) / Jonas Andersson (SWE), Skoda Fabia RS
"The first stage was fun and it was nice to see all the fans. Today was a lot to drive and not many special stage kilometres. But there were so many fans that it was worth it."
#23 Sami Pajari (FIN) / Enni Mälkönen (FIN), Skoda Fabia RS
"The start ceremony was really nice. I was once on holiday in Prague and I never thought I would be driving a long rally car there. The first stage went well, but was also treacherous in these conditions. There's no room for mistakes, and if you don't take a corner perfectly, you'll hit something. Let's see how it will be in Klatovy. It seems to be raining a bit here, so it will be even more difficult."
#24 Adrien Fourmaux (FRA) / Alexandre Coria (FRA), Ford Fiesta Mk II
"The stage now was very short but interesting. It was very slippery. Today it's long liaison stages. Tomorrow there are more stages on the programme. It's great to see so many fans."
#25 Nikolay Gryazin (*) / Konstantin Aleksandrov (*), Skoda Fabia RS
"The first stage was okay. It's a nice feeling to drive in front of a Czech crowd."
#26 Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL) / Maciej Szczepaniak (POL), Skoda Fabia RS
"The first stage was difficult for me. It's the first time I've driven on asphalt in this car. But I think it will be more difficult tomorrow because it is supposed to rain. But I'm still looking forward to it."
#27 Emil Lindholm (FIN) / Reeta Hämäläinen (FIN), Hyundai i20 N
"The first special stage went quite well - until we had a small spin in the twisty passage. But that wasn't too bad. The rally is still long and tomorrow it really starts. The Ceremonial Start in Prague was cool. It was great to see so many people. The whole scenery was very nice."
#28 Miko Marczyk (POL) / Daniel Dymurski (POL), Skoda Fabia RS
"The day so far has been very good. The first stage was fun. We have a tough rally ahead of us from tomorrow."
#36 Nicolas Ciamin (FRA) / Yannick Roche (FRA), Skoda Fabia RS
"I'm always excited at the start of the first stage. But it wasn't that difficult. The track was dry. My time is not bad. There are long liaison stages with a lot of traffic jams. The Ceremonial Start was great. It's good to bring the rally to people who are not really fans yet. It can ignite passion for the sport."
#39 Simon Wagner (AUT) / Gerald Winter (AUT), Skoda Fabia RS
"It will be a difficult rally. The stages are new for everyone. The weather conditions won't be easy either. We have already seen that today. In Prague it was dry, in between it rained and now we will see how the last stage will be. Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow will certainly not be easier. The first stage was good - 13th overall and fourth in WRC2 is more than we expected. But in the end it will be counted. Starting in Prague was great, even though the liaison stages were very long."
#44 Štěpán Vojtěch (CZE) / Michal Ernst (CZE), Skoda Fabia
"It's been a while since I've driven. But the opportunity to experience the start in Prague and to drive the stages I drove 20 years ago is something so special that I couldn't pass it up. The first stage might seem a bit like a Mickey Mouse course. But we're having fun in the car and learning every kilometre."
#45 Albert von Thurn und Taxis (GER) / Jara Hain (GER), Skoda Fabia RS
"We drove a lot of liaison kilometres and few special stage kilometres. The first special stage was okay. We tried not to take too many risks. We will continue like this on the second short special stage. I think tomorrow will be the toughest day to survive. The weather will also be the most challenging tomorrow. The Ceremonial Start in Prague was spectacular."
#46 Martin Roßgatterer (AUT) / Jürgen Heigl (AUT), Skoda Fabia Evo
"Velka Chuchle was my very first special stage at a WRC round and it was really impressive. The crowd, the whole thing - I'm a bit flashed and really looking forward to the next days. It's great that I can drive here. The rally is just beginning. Prague was tremendous. So many people, a great atmosphere and an incredibly beautiful atmosphere."
#48 Armin Kremer (GER) / Ella Kremer (GER), Skoda Fabia RS
"The first stage was a spectator circuit. You could show the fans something there. But the traffic is chaotic. To drive into Prague and showcase the sport there, that's very positive. Tomorrow's stages will certainly be very demanding in terms of driving and then the rally really starts."
#49 Johannes Keferböck (AUT) / Ilka Mimor (AUT), Skoda Fabia RS
"The first stage was cool. A fast track, which was also slippery in parts. Now, of course, the focus is on the loop. We have to see if we can increase the pace a bit. I start with a heavy heart. We lost the title in Greece and now we are fighting with Armin (Kremer) for the vice championship. Maybe it will still work out, but he is also a fast as hell competitor."
#55 Filip Kohn (CZE) / Tom Woodburn (GBR), Ford Fiesta Rally3
"Stage 1 was quite ok, we slid quite a bit. But the more important stage today is the second one. The fact that I got to start a WRC rally in Prague fulfilled a dream for me today."
#56 Fabio Schwarz (GER) / Bernhard Ettel (AUT), Ford Fiesta Rally3
"That was a fun little stage. I was probably a bit too careful on the gravel part. But we had fun. In Prague it was great to see all the fans."