Rally Australia: Mikkelsen takes early lead, Latvala hits bridge

Andreas Mikkelsen ends Friday morning in Australia on top; Dani Sordo provisionally holds second, 13.7secs back, but looks set to pick up a 20-sec penalty after he was 2 minutes late starting SS4
CLICK HERE for Rally Australia leaderboard after SS5

Volkswagen Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen leads Rally Australia after Friday's opening loop, which saw team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala hit a bridge in the very first test and damage the rear left suspension on his Polo R WRC.

Mikkelsen, who was second quickest in the shakedown on Thursday, won four of the morning's five stages, only briefly losing the lead in SS2 when Hayden Paddon topped the times. Mikkelsen, however, re-took top spot in SS3 and now heads into the mid-day service in Coffs Harbour over 10secs up on his closest rival.

"I'm feeling really good. A good drive and I've been trying to make the most of the lines from the two cars ahead. I expected the guys behind to be faster," Mikkelsen told the official WRC site.

"The car feels perfect, really nice, I want to sit in it forever. We're in a perfect rhythm now. I want to keep that for the afternoon - I don't want to change anything."

Dani Sordo provisionally holds second, 13.7secs adrift in his Hyundai, but looks set to pick up a 20-sec penalty after he was 2 minutes late starting SS4. That error - the Spaniard later confirmed they got lost on the road section - will promote team-mate Paddon to second, 14.2 seconds back.

Sebastien Ogier is next up, currently fourth in his VW Polo R WRC, with Hyundai's Thierry Neuville and M-Sport duo Mads Ostberg and Eric Camilli in positions 5 through to 7 - all set to benefit at Sordo's expense.

Ogier and Neuville both lost out being first and second respectively on the road: "We have been on the limit all the way through today. Okay, we're far back, which is frustrating, but I did all I could. I have not so much hope for this afternoon, to be honest," Ogier said after SS4.

"It has not been easy but we are happy to be keeping up with Seb," Neuville added. “I have to keep an eye on the championship [fight for second] because Andreas is doing well."

Further back, DMACK's Ott Tanak is eighth, losing out with a spin in SS4, while Ford privateer Lorenzo Bertelli and WRC2 class leader Esapekka Lappi round out the top ten, the latter on course to take the title in the principal support class providing he finishes second or better.

Latvala managed to complete the loop, but lost almost 8 minutes to the leaders, having to limp through after his error near the end of Utungun 1.

“[It was] my mistake. A little wide on a right-hander over a bridge and it touched the bridge," he confirmed after SS1.

Speaking later he added: "Not a great day for us. Now we need to get the car back to the team so they can work on it. Hopefully we'll get a better afternoon."

Rally Australia now continues with repeat runs Utungun, Bakers Creek, Northbank and Newry. The opening leg then concludes with two runs through the short 1.27km Destination NSW super special stage.

SS6, the 7.88km Utungun 2 test, is due to start at 13.10 hours local time [02.10 hours UK time].
by Rob Wilkins

Related Pictures

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Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) Anders Jaeger Synnevag (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC

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