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WRC Rally Australia: Mikkelsen continues to lead, Paddon up to P2

Andreas Mikkelsen heads into Saturday's mid-day service in Australia with a 13.6sec lead over Hayden Paddon; Sebastien Ogier holds third, 3secs back and 23.2secs up on Thierry Neuville in P4
CLICK HERE for Rally Australia leaderboard after SS14


Andreas Mikkelsen continues to lead Rally Australia following Saturday morning's opening loop, while Hayden Paddon has climbed to second.

Mikkelsen began the second leg with a 15.4sec advantage, completing the long 50.80 km run through Nambucca 1 with the third best time, before then going fifth in SS13 and joint quickest with Sebastien Ogier and Dani Sordo in the short 1.37km Raceway SSS 2. It means the VW Motorsport II pilot now heads back to Coffs Harbour for the mid-day service with his lead trimmed to 13.6secs.

“A good morning,” Mikkelsen told the official WRC site. “Seb took a risk on the soft tyres which paid off I think.

“For us, it's been okay, we have kept the gap more or less the same, but for sure this afternoon [on the repeat] we must push.”

Meanwhile, Paddon, who had been fourth on Friday night, 23.2secs off the lead, leap-frogged Ogier and Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville in Nambucca 1, completing the test quickest, 10.2secs up on Mikkelsen, 12.6secs up on Ogier and 22.3secs up on Neuville – a great time given he had issues with dust in his i20 WRC.

“From the very first corner dust billowed into the car,” Paddon confirmed after SS12. “I tried to ignore it but it was a bit distracting. I thought maybe the rear door was open but perhaps there's a hole somewhere under the car.”

Speaking after going fourth in SS13 and in SS14, he added: "We can't be disappointed. It could have been better but we're back in the fight. It will be much more difficult to take as much time again in Nambucca on the repeat but we'll give it our best shot."

Behind, Ogier is only 3secs back and now 23.3secs up on Neuville, despite still running first on the road. The Frenchman opted for soft tyres and felt that gamble definitely paid dividends. Neuville in contrast went for hards.

“Soft compound tyres were completely the right choice. It was a bit of a risk but in our position it was all we could do. It turned out better than I expected. This afternoon there will probably be some issue with tyre wear, so I will have to be clever. It will be interesting," Ogier said.

"I was concerned that the softs would be too soft for the conditions this morning,” Neuville added. “In hindsight we should have taken a few more risks with the tyre choice. But we are still in the race. We won't give up."

M-Sport's Mads Ostberg completes the top-five, only 7.9secs off Neuville, with Dani Sordo now sixth in his Hyundai having jumped Eric Camilli in the other M-Sport Fiesta in SS12.

"It was okay this morning. We lost six or so seconds with an overshoot but otherwise no mistakes. Our target is to catch Ostberg," Sordo said.

DMACK's Ott Tanak, Ford privateer Lorenzo Bertelli and Skoda's Esapekka Lappi hold positions 8 through to 10, the latter still on course for WRC2 glory and fastest in all three of the morning's stages.

Jari-Matti Latvala has climbed to 13th, second quickest in SS12 and fastest in SS13 to show a glimpse of what could have been had he not hit that bridge in the first test on Friday.

Rally Australia now continues with repeat runs through Nambucca and Valla16. The day then concludes - like on Friday - with two runs through the short 1.27km Destination NSW super special stage.

SS15, Nambucca 2, is scheduled to start at 13.16 hours local time [02.16 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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