Mikkelsen leads Rally Australia after ‘perfect day’

Source:AFP Published: 2017/11/17 21:13:39

Hyundai driver Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway powers through a corner on the first day of World Rally Championship event Rally Australia near Coffs Harbour on Friday. Photo: AFP

Defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen was the early leader of the season-ending Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour on Friday after winning five of the opening eight stages.

The Norwegian (Hyundai i20 WRC) held a 20.1 seconds advantage over Citroen's Kris Meeke with Hyundai team leader Thierry Neuville in third, 23.1sec down.

Frenchman Sebastien Ogier has already wrapped up the 2017 World Rally Championship, but the battle for second remains alive in Australia.

Belgium's Neuville holds a 14-point advantage over M-Sport's Estonian driver Ott Tanak, with a maximum 30 points available in the final leg of the season.

Tanak was in sixth place, 33 seconds down on Mikkelsen with Ogier in eighth.

Five-time world champion Ogier, who bore the task of "cleaning" the gravel surface as first in the running order, suffered gear selection problems in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta.

Mikkelsen said he had struck a fine balance with his machine in only his third event since being hired by the German-based Korean manufacturer.

"It's been really amazing. The car feels like home now," Mikkelsen said.

"It's the perfect day for us so far. With these roads and this car it's so nice because I can do exactly what I want."

Northern Ireland's Meeke had some damage to the front splitter after SS6 as he struggled to come to grips with tire compound choices.

"Just trying to work it out, to be honest," Meeke said.

"We've been through soft and I went through hard. It seems like the tyre choice is a mixed bag."

Neuville was also not comfortable with the tires after the 26.68-kilometer SS6.

"I struggled a bit with the soft tires on this one and the rear was sliding too much, especially the left rear," he said.


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