'I played nicely,' said Lawrie. 'I hit a few slack iron shots but other than that putted well today.'
Christopher Hanell, who won his maiden title at last week's Madeira Island Open, collected six birdies and a bogey to finish one shot back after a round of 67. Hanell was joined by Stephen Dodd, Jarmo Sandelin, Nicolas Colsaerts, Gabriel Canizares, Gregory Havret and Andrew Raitt in a tie for second.
Lawrie, who was named rookie of the year last season on the European Tour, posted three birdies over his first seven holes at Le Meridien.
The Irishman faltered with a bogey at the par-4 ninth but recovered with a birdie at the very next hole to return to minus-3.
Lawrie made a push to separate himself from the logjam atop the leaderboard on the closing holes and drained 16-foot putt for a birdie at the par-4 14th. He then knocked his approach inside three feet for a birdie at the 15th to grab a share of the lead at 5 under.
At the par-5 18th, Lawrie left himself within five feet for birdie and ran home the putt to assume sole possession of the lead after the first round.
'Hopefully we can put four rounds together. That is the one thing missing,' said Lawrie. 'I've been up there after two or three rounds but thrown in a bad one. You don't win tournaments on a Thursday. I've got experience from last year and from winning on the Challenge Tour so see how things go.'
Colsaerts, who has yet to make a cut on the European Tour in 2004, played the back side first and tallied three birdies over his first nine holes.
The 21-year-old added a birdie at the par-4 third and played his second shot to three feet at the short par-4 seventh for another birdie to finish one shot off the lead.
Barry Lane got to 5 under thanks to a stretch of four consecutive birdies from the second. The Englishman dropped a shot with a bogey at the 16th, however, for a round of 68.
Lane was joined by Jose Manuel Lara, Terry Price, Sam Walker, Maarten Lafeber, Philip Walton, Miguel Angel Martin and Jesus Maria Arruti in a tie for ninth.
Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ignacio Garrido were one shot further back in a group at 3-under-par 69.