Mikkelsen makes flying start to Rally Australia
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Hyundai driver Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) has made a flying start to WRC Rally Australia this morning.
Mikkelsen, the winner in Australia last year driving for Volkswagen, has again shown his liking for the Coffs Coast roads and set fastest times on each of the three stages this morning and open a commanding rally lead.
The stage-winning pace has pushed Mikkelsen to a rally lead of 16.6secs ahead of the Citroen duo of Kris Meeke and Craig Breen who run second and third and are separated by 1.1secs.
New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon (Hyundai) opened his rally with fourth fastest time through the 9.71km Pilbara stage and then sixth in the next 19.05km Eastbank stage to settle into sixth position. He slipped one spot on stage three to seventh place.
It’s a close battle with Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), Ott Tanak (Ford), Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota) and Paddon covered by 1.3secs in fourth through seventh positions.
Paddon is looking to step up his speed for the afternoon stages.
"It feels like we are down on power at the moment but we’ll look at the data and see if it’s the same for everyone,’’ Paddon said ahead of checking into the Coffs Stadium service park.
"The road is quite soft but it feels quite ridiculous in the car which is affecting everything and the pace notes are too slow. We anticipated a lot more speed.
"We didn’t take advantage of the road position this morning so will try to pull finger this afternoon. We need to get into the top four this afternoon to get into a good road position for tomorrow,’’ Paddon said.
Opening the road on the dry and loose surfaces has left world champion Sebastien Ogier (Ford) back in eighth position.
The first of the leading drivers to encounter problems was Finland’s Esapekka Lappi who lost time when the power steering failed in his Toyota Yaris in stage two and continued to lose time in the following stage.
The showers that were forecast for today have yet to play any part in the event and drivers are reporting patches of thick dust in spite of being separated by three-minute gaps.
With three stages completed the other New Zealand crew of Michael Young and Malcom Read are running in 22nd place with a front-wheel-drive Citroen DS3 R3T.
The teams have now made their visit to the Coffs Harbour service park and the morning loop of three stages is repeated this afternoon ahead of two runs through the 1.27km Destination NSW super special stage.