Volkswagen Motorsport II driver Andreas Mikkelsen dominated day one of Kennards Hire Rally Australia 2016 ending the day with a 15 second lead over team-mate Sebastién Ogier.
Throughout the early stages, Mikkelsen had a to and fro battle with Hyundai Motorsport’s Kiwi star Haydon Paddon, until a bad tyre choice dropped him back. Ogier struggled in the first loop of stages, being as low as eighth after SS3, but as the day progressed he gradually climbed up the leader board to finish the day in second place.
However, team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala had a nightmare start to the rally, clipping a bridge on SS1 and breaking the VW Polo R’s suspension. He lost almost eight minutes while limping through the next four stages in order to reach service.
Mikkelsen was very happy with the first day’s work and feels like it has put him in the perfect position to battle for second place in the championship.In fact his only problem was a bizarre incident with a water bottle.
“It became stuck between my feet,” he said. “I managed to catch it in a corner but it was a bit scary. I’m happy how the day turned out. We want to be second in the championship so we have to give it everything.”
Minor problems derail Hyundai’s challenge
Hyundai’s other driver’s were well placed early on in the day, but gradually lost out through minor issues. After Paddon’s failed tyre gamble, it was Dani Sordo that led the Korean marque’s challenge.
However, on the way to SS4, the Spaniard became lost which meant he started the stage two minutes late, resulting in a 20 second time penalty. In the end it was Thierry Neuville, Mikkelsen’s biggest rival for second in the title, who was the highest non-VW in third place just seven seconds behind Ogier, just in front of team-mate Paddon.
Mads Ostberg led the M-Sport World Rally Team challenge in fifth, with team-mate Éric Camilli in ninth, just behind DMACK World Rally Team driver Ott Tanak. Tanak had endured a frustrating day suffering from a stuck throttle, a spin and being pulled over by the Police on the road section which led to a 40 second time penalty for being late to the start.
Lappi on course for the WRC2 title
In WRC2, Esapekka Lappi set fastest times on 10 of the 11 stages to set him well on course for the WRC2 title.
Lappi in his Skoda Fabia R5 holds a 2min 12.8sec lead over the similar car of Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs, who despite hitting a wall, is 6.6 seconds ahead of third place Hubert Ptaszek.
In WRC3 Michel Fabre, the only competitor in the class, was a steady twenty fourth overall amongst the local competitors.