Mikkelsen leads in Hyundai WRC debut in Spain

2017-10-06 20:15:04

Andreas Mikkelsen has had a dream start to his debut competitive outing with Hyundai Motorsport and leads Rally Catalunya- Spain after the opening morning of competition.

With limited seat time in the i20 Coupe WRC, the Norwegian has been easing himself into the car but fastest time in SS3 moved him from an early sixth to leading the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Despite battling against billowing dust in the car, Mads Ostberg holds second and Sebastien Ogier is third with a welcome cushion to his main championship rival, Thierry Neuville.

The rally got underway last night on the Salou seafront with the competition starting this morning as the crews headed west to familiar stages run predominantly on gravel.

A mix of tire choices was taken by all the drivers and, as usual, management of wear came into play. Mikkelsen, with just a few days of testing under his belt, was competitive from the outset, comfortable he could push hard and was sixth fastest in the opener. He climbed a position in the following stage and then with some changes to the differential settings ahead of the final test in the loop, the Norwegian powered into the lead after the mixed gravel and asphalt Terra Alta.

Just sixth-tenths of second separate him and Ostberg, however. The fellow countryman struggled to see at times and the swirling dust in the car also affected the voice of pace note man Torstein Eriksen. Ogier, opening the road on today’s gravel stages, had the worst of the conditions but the reigning World Champion climbed to third after a slow start in the first two stages.

Behind the leading trio, Ott Tanak has dropped to fourth. The Estonian set the pace in the opening stage and maintained his lead after the second but was then distracted and lost rhythm with a slow puncture in the final stage. Kris Meeke is just two-tenths adrift in the lead Citroën C3 WRC and Dani Sordo is sixth.

Championship hopeful Thierry Neuville regretted his soft compound tyre choice for the morning and is in a disappointing seventh and needing to climb the leaderboard significantly if he hopes to continue challenging Ogier for the title. Jari-Matti Latvala is also hot on his heels and his team-mate Juho Hanninen is ninth. Elfyn Evans rounds off the top 10 having dropped time with a broken wheel in the final stage.

In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, a string of fastest times has rewarded Teemu Suninen with the lead and he heads Simone Tempestini by nearly a minute. Nil Solans, who is looking to secure the FIA Junior WRC title here in Spain, heads that category just 12.2 seconds ahead of Nicolas Ciamin who needs to win to have any chance of snatching the silverware.

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