Mikkelsen jumps to early lead in Rally Australia

Finland’s Esapekka Lappi guides his Toyota around the harbourside  Destination NSW Super Special Stage in front of a packed crowd tonight (Jeremy Rogers pic)
Finland’s Esapekka Lappi guides his Toyota around the harbourside Destination NSW Super Special Stage in front of a packed crowd tonight (Jeremy Rogers pic)

ANDREAS Mikkelsen will hold a 20.1 second lead starting Day 2 of Kennards Hire Rally Australia after dominating the opening leg of the 2017 World Rally Championship finale yesterday.

Mikkelsen will go into the longest stage of the rally, 49 kilometre Nambucca17, in 11th position in the starting order after wrapping up the day with two faultless passes in front of a packed crowd on the harbourside 1.27km Destination NSW Super Special Stage.

After Mikkelsen took advantage of ninth place in the starting order yesterday morning – set according to championship standing – the order for Day 2 sees the fastest group of drivers start in reverse order of yesterday’s finishing positions. This will put Toyota star Esapekka Lappi of Finland first on the road to “clean” the loose gravel for following competitors, a burden world champion Sébastien Ogier wore yesterday.

A clean sweep of wins in the SSS test by Thierry Neuville saw the Belgian driver move to second outright and clip .8s off teammate Mikkelsen’s overall advantage.

Kris Meeke (Citroen) is 20.8s off the pace in third with Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota) fourth.

Craig Breen (Citroen) ended his maiden Rally Australia to be classified in a commendable fifth ahead of Ott Tanak (M-Sport), Hayden Paddon (Hyundai), Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport), Stephane Lefebvre (Citroen) and Elfyn Evans (M-Sport).

Mikkelsen, the defending Rally Australia winner, will lead the action which starts with the iconic 48.99km Nambucca stage.

Mikkelsen: “For sure there was some cleaning in there. So I struggled a bit being early on `the road but I can’t complain too much because I had a good starting position today.”