WRC: Mikkelsen leads but Paddon splits the VWs

2016-11-19 01:07:48

Andreas Mikkelsen remained in the lead of Rally Australia as Hayden Paddon slipped ahead of Sebastien Ogier on Saturday morning.

A stunning fastest time on the 31.5-mile Nambucca stage hauled Hyundai driver Paddon above Thierry Neuville and Volkswagen's four-time world champion Ogier on the first of the three morning stages. It also hacked 10 seconds out of his gap to Mikkelsen, though the Norwegian was able to match his pursuers on SS13 and then set the joint-fastest time on the short superspecial that makes up SS14.

Mikkelsen tied with Ogier and Dani Sordo to end what he called "a good morning" with a 13.6s lead over Paddon and with Ogier three seconds further back.

Ogier nibbled away at Mikkelsen's advantage after gambling on four soft tires to his teammate's hard-compound Michelins, and the Frenchman said he made "completely the right choice" despite acknowledging the afternoon loop could be trickier.

"It was a bit of a risk but in our position it was all we could do," said Ogier. "It turned out better than I expected. This afternoon there will probably be some issue with tire wear, so I will have to be clever. It will be interesting."

The leading trio is comfortably clear of Thierry Neuville in the second Hyundai, and the Belgian has come under attack from M-Sport driver Mads Ostberg. Neuville, now 39.8s behind Mikkelsen, is less than eight seconds ahead in the fight for fourth.

Sordo's joint-fastest SS14 effort helped him get into sixth ahead of the second M-Sport Ford Fiesta of Eric Camilli.

Jari-Matti Latvala was the morning's other stage winner, taking the fastest time on SS13 as the VW man continues to play catch-up after his first-stage shunt.

Esapekka Lappi's quest to clinch the WRC2 title with a crushing victory continued as he runs almost three minutes clear of the small second-tier field in 10th overall.


Originally on Autosport.com

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