Defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen has made the perfect start to the new Intercontinental Rally Challenge season with victory in the Azores.

The victory, coming after success in Scotland and Cyprus at the end of 2011, means the Skoda UK Motorsport driver has become the first man to take three consecutive IRC wins.

Mikkelsen took the lead on the opening stage and then led throughout despite the best efforts of factory Skoda driver Juho Hanninen.

In the end, Mikkelsen's margin of victory was 25.1secs with the Norwegian

"It's a perfect start to the season for Skoda UK, I'm so happy for the whole team, and it's a perfect result for Skoda with a one-two - it couldn't be better," he said. "We had a great fight with Juho right to the bitter end.

"We pushed hard all the way to the finish, and I'm so happy for myself, Ola and the team, who have done a fantastic job, that we finished on the top. I'm extremely happy about this."

Hanninen was well clear of third-placed Bryan Bouffier, who saw his fight for the final podium position with Bruno Magalhaes come to an end when his fellow Peugeot driver crashed out on Friday.

Sepp Wiegand was fourth in his Skoda after benefitting from a puncture for Hermann Gassner Jr on the penultimate stage. Ricardo Moura rounded out the top six.

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