Thierry Neuville leads the 2017 Kennards Hire Rally Australia after day two as Hyundai teammate Andreas Mikkelsen hit a bank in a rainforest on stage 10.
Neuville goes into day three now leading Toyota’s Jari–Matti Latvala by 20.1 seconds after taking full advantage of Mikkelsen’s mistake after the Norwegian driver hit a bank that punctured both his front and rear left tyres. With only one spare tyre onboard his i20 WRC, he had no option but to retire from the remainder of the day’s action.
Mikkelsen said on his mistake: “t happened about 2km after the start on a right-hander over a crest, third or fourth gear. I touched the bank on the outside quite hard. Sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don’t. This time we didn’t. It’s devastating.”
Despite leading, Neuville was also caught out on stage 10 of the event like his teammate, overshooting a tight corner costing him precious seconds, enabling Latvala to take advantage and close the gap to just 5.7 seconds.
However Neuville responded, taking two stage wins over the course of the remaining five stages to take a commanding lead into the final day of the event. Stage 14, the final forest stage of the day on Saturday was cancelled due to a damaged bridge.
Third after Saturday is M-Sport’s Ott Tänak, who moved into the final podium position after Citroen’s Kris Meeke damaged the C3 WRC’s rear suspension after colliding with a bridge. Tänak trails Latvala by 20.5 seconds.
Fourth is Craig Breen who is on course for a strong finish ahead of Hayden Paddon; the Australian Hyundai driver very nearly suffering heartbreak on his home event after clipping a tree branch that fortunately damaged only the grill of his i20 WRC and not the radiator.
Sixth at the end of day two is world champion Sebastian Ogier, the Frenchman another driver to survive a scare in the Australian rainforests after hitting a bank but fortunately only damaged his front and rear bumpers while Stephane Lefebvre is seventh.
Elfyn Evans is in eighth, while Esapekka Lappi lies in ninth. Finally, Kalle Rovanpera was forced to retire from the day’s action after he was another driver to suffer two punctures with only one spare tyre onboard his Fiesta R5.
2017 Kennards Hire Rally Australia concludes tomorrow (November 19) with over 64km of stage action remaining.