Newly-crowned champion Pontus Tidemand was fastest through the darkness of the opening 21.26km Querol test, only for Lemes and Suarez to move past him in the following 24.14km El Montmell.
Suarez ended the night with fastest time through the 16.35km Riudecanyes to take over at the top from Lemes by just 0.2sec, with Tidemand 20.0sec behind in third.
“It’s nice to be leading by 0.2sec, but it’s nothing with such a long way still to go,” said Suarez. “I’m not yet 100 per cent confident with my car – we will go over it in service. Everything needs to be right because it’s clear this is going to be a very intense battle.”
Eight of the nine JWRC competitors, all in Hankook-shod, GEM-fuelled Ford Fiesta R2s, made it back to the late night service in Salou. The exception was Finland’s Niko Nieminen, who hit a tree in the opening test.
Behind the leading three, a fascinating battle for fourth took shape with just 21.6sec covering five drivers. Sander Parn held the upper hand by 12.0sec from Martin Koci, with Marius Aasen, Murat Bostanci and Michael Burri following close behind.
Andreas Amberg, who missed the previous two rounds of the series in Germany and France for financial reasons, has been excluded from the championship by rally stewards in Spain. All points scored by Amberg have been deleted.