Chardonnet, who leads the championship, proved to be the most comfortable on Thursday’s opening two asphalt tests, claiming fastest time on the first stage and second fastest on the next.
Local favourite Riedemann trails the Frenchman by just 3.3 seconds after SS2 and is in turn only 2.2 seconds clear of Gilbert, from France.
“We’re really pleased to be back on tarmac,” said Chardonnet. “The fight for the win is going to be close because there’s less than ten seconds between the first four cars. Anyway, we’re going to try and do just as well tomorrow.”
Simone Campedelli won the day’s second stage to lie fourth overall while Keith Cronin, who won the most recent round in Finland, ended the day in fifth, after picking up a puncture on the second test.
Federico Della Casa and Mohammed Al Mutawaa complete the WRC 3 provisional standings.