George Coetzee fired his lowest opening round of the season to set the clubhouse target on day one of the Amundi Open de France.
The South African made seven birdies and a single bogey in a 65 that moved him to six under, one shot clear of countryman Justin Walters and Scot Richie Ramsay.
Ramsay dropped a single shot in his 66, while afternoon starter Walters made a blistering start with five birdies in his opening seven holes.
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and South African Darren Fichardt were then at four under having completed their rounds, alongside England's Jordan Smith who birdied his opening four holes.
A group of ten players were three shots off the lead.
There was plenty of early jostling on the leaderboard but nobody could get past four under until Coetzee went out in the final group of the morning off the first.
The 33-year-old made a birdie-birdie start and a hat-trick of gains from the sixth saw him jump out of the pack as he turned in 31.
Another gain on the tenth had him two clear of the chasing pack as Colsaerts set the very early target.
The big hitting Belgian birdied the 14th and 16th but gave a shot back on the 18th before making gains on the third and fourth.
A birdie from eight feet on the ninth then saw him sign for a 67.
Playing partners Fichardt and Ramsay were in the final group of the morning off the tenth and it was Fichardt who made a quick move with gains on the 12th, 13th, 14th and 18th.
Ramsay joined him at four under with a gain on the fifth, adding to birdies on the tenth, 14th, 17th and third and a bogey on the 12th, but they were soon three back as four time European Tour winner Coetzee put an approach to tap-in range on the 15th.
Ramsay hit a beautiful approach of his own to around ten feet on the seventh and he was soon just one back as Coetzee dropped his only shot of the day on the 17th.
Home favourite Romain Langasque, two time Major winner and 2009 champion Martin Kaymer, and Rolex Series winner Brandon Stone were in the group at three under alongside Dane Joachim B Hansen, Scot Liam Johnston, Australian Deyen Lawson, Chilean Hugo Leon, Ireland's Gavin Moynihan, Norway's Kristoffer Reitan and Austrian Matthias Schwab.