Andreas Mikkelsen leads Hyundai Motorsport teammate Thierry Neuville by 20.1 seconds at the end of day one of Kennards Hire Rally Australia after making the most of his starting position on the road.
Mikkelsen, who won five out of the eight stages on day one and was the winner in Australia 12 months ago, used the opportunity of being low down in the starting order to full effect and dominated across the opening day of action.
The Norwegian driver who is making just his third Hyundai appearance said on his lead: “We have had a promising first day. The conditions on the stages were quite tricky with lots of loose gravel, which meant a bit of cleaning for those earlier on the roads. All of the stages went pretty well from my point of view and I am generally satisfied with our position.”
Just 0.7 seconds behind Neuville in third is Citroen driver Kris Meeke; the Irishman had been running second behind Mikkelsen for most of the day before a late surge by Neuville pushed him down into the final podium position going into day two.
Behind the leading trio sees a close battle developing for fourth, with Toyota’s Jari-Mati Latvala, Citroen’s Craig Breen and M-Sport’s joint-stage seven winner Ott Tänak all separated by just 3.1 seconds.
Seventh down-under is the third Hyundai of Hayden Paddon, who is competing on his home event this weekend, while newly crowned champion Sebastian Ogier knew before coming to Australia that being first in the running order would make him struggle and the Frenchman was also hindered with a gear shift issue problem on his M-Sport Fiesta throughout the opening day, forcing him to finish in eighth.
Ninth overall is Stéphane Lefebvre in the third Citroen after suffering two punctures, Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans lies in tenth with the aim this weekend to simply finish and gain experience for the future and eleventh is the third Toyota of Esapekka Lappi. The sole entrant in WRC2, youngster Kalle Rovanperä is twelfth overall at the end of day one.
Kennards Hire Rally Australia continues this weekend.