Andreas Mikkelsen has pulled out a 21-second lead on Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville after the opening day of running at Rally Australia.

The Norwegian driver, whose last WRC victory came at the same event for Volkswagen 12 months ago, has started strongly by winning five of the opening eight stages to see his lead on the timesheet to steadily grow to 20.1 seconds over Neuville.

Neuville clinched victory on the final stage of the day SS8 Destination NSW II to wrestle second place off of Citroen’s Kris Meeke by just 0.7s. Meeke has a 9.1s advantage over lead Toyota driver Jari-Matti Latvala in fourth place in a solid but unspectacular opening day as he edged clear of Craig Breen in the second Citroen by less than a second.

Ott Tanak, who is battling for the runner-up spot in the WRC drivers’ championship against Neuville, endured a tricky day down in sixth place but was still able to take one stage win to remain within touching distance of the leaders.

With Hayden Paddon in seventh, newly-crowned five-time WRC champion Sebastien Ogier battled through his poor road position and a technical issue with his M-Sport Ford to end the day in eighth place as Stephane Lefebvre and Elfyn Evans rounded out the top ten.