But his bid for victory wasn’t entirely without incident after he caught the slowing Bernardo Sousa on Friday’s final stage and was unable to add to his tally of four stage wins.
Sousa, contesting the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, was struggling with broken powersteering and was not aware his countryman was trying to pass.
“I followed him for a long time and we touched at one point,” said Araujo. “Apart from that everything has been okay today. I have been very confident with my car after the testing we have done. The team worked very hard and I am very determined.”
Pirelli Star Driver Hayden Paddon, starting a Tarmac rally for the first time, impressed by completing day one in second place, 32.7s behind Araujo’s similar Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. However, the New Zealander is only 5.3s in front of Patrik Flodin, despite the Swede’s Subaru Impreza’s engine overheating on stage five.
Hermann Gassner, who has been nominated to score P-WRC points by the event organisers as a wildcard entrant, is fourth in his Lancer after dropping time on stage five with a slow puncture.
“Saturday is a very important day because it's the longest of the rally and we expect the temperatures to be very high so there was no point doing anything stupid today,” said the 21-year-old Gassner. “To be fourth overnight means my tactic has worked. We had some small oversteer in the morning but changes to the dampers at service made the handling much better.”
Alex Raschi is fifth with Finnish veteran Reijo Muhonen sixth, despite breaking his Lancer’s front and rear-right wheel rims on stage six. Behind Nick Georgiou, ex-circuit racer Michel Jourdain is eighth on his first Tarmac rally.
There was disappointment for several fancied runners. Double Production champion Toshi Arai retired when he suffered a broken driveshaft on the road section heading to stage four, which also claimed Ott Tanak after the Estonian clouted a kerb and broke his front suspension. Like Arai, the P-WRC winner on Rally Finland will restart under SupeRally regulations on Saturday.
Florian Niegel, the second wildcard, went no further than stage two when his Lancer caught fire. Several drivers stopped to provide assistance, including Kenyan Peter Horsey. After completing the halted stage, Horsey realised he had left his crash helmet at the scene and was left with no alternative but to retire from the day’s action.
Follow this link to see the Rally Deutschland P-WRC stage times.
"I have been very confident with my car after the testing we have done. The team worked very hard and I am very determined.”