Andreas Mikkelsen has opened up an early lead on the Mecsek Rally, the Intercontinental Rally Challenge's first visit to Hungary.
Three fastest times from the opening four stages have given Skoda UK's Mikkelsen a 14-second lead over the field, with the Norwegian declaring himself thrilled with his car's performance.
"The engineers and the mechanics of the team are doing an amazing job," said Mikkelsen.
Mecsek's very fast and slippery asphalt stages have proved to be a huge challenge for the drivers so far, and have also seen controversy. Many drivers were angry to find that corner-marking tyre piles on SS1 had been moved following the recce, and there have been concerns about the number of spectators encroaching onto the roads. The Alsomocsolad stage, SS4, saw particular worries over crowd issues.
"To be honest I don't know how it was possible that we were able to run this stage because in the last two kilometres people are everywhere," said Skoda's Jan Kopecky.
The Czech driver is the only man other than Mikkelsen to have set a fastest time so far, winning SS3 Pecsvarad. He is currently at the tail of an extremely close battle for second place in which Thierry Neuville (Peugeot Belgium), Freddy Loix (BFO Skoda) and Kopecky are covered by less than a second.
Leading local driver and sometime World Rally Championship entrant Frigyes Turan is close behind this battle and just ahead of Peugeot UK's Guy Wilks. Ford man Turan got as high as third before a slow SS3 time dropped him back.
Monte Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier (PH Peugeot) has struggled to find confidence on the Hungarian stages and is eighth at present behind top Production runner Gyorgy Aschenbrenner's Mitsubishi. Returnee Bruno Magalhaes has been delayed by gearbox issues in his Peugeot Portugal entry, and both Protons have already hit trouble, with a suspected engine failure for Giandomenico Basso and wheel damage for PG Andersson.
Leading positions after SS4:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK 36m47.7s
2. Thierry Neuville Kronos/Peugeot Belux + 14.4s
3. Freddy Loix BFO Skoda + 15.0s
4. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 15.4s
5. Frigyes Turan Turan Ford + 26.8s
6. Guy Wilks Kronos/Peugeot UK + 27.7s
7. Gyorgy Aschenbrenner Martevo Mitsubishi + 44.3s
8. Bryan Bouffier PH Peugeot + 46.0s
9. Robert Butor M3 Auto Peugeot + 56.6s
10. Toni Gardemeister TGS Skoda + 1m01.0s