Sensational first day has Mikkelsen leading the WRC pack
HYUNDAI Motorsport driver Andreas Mikkelsen has orchestrated a perfect start to Kennards Hire Rally Australia by edging out his lead after the opening six special stages today.
Leading from this morning's start, Mikkelsen extended his lead on the repeat afternoon leg of the Pilbara, Eastbank and Sherwood stages to hold a 20.1s advantage over team mate Thierry Neuville after the Destination NSW Super Special Stages held at the Jetty Foreshore.
Citroen driver Kris Meeke is less than a second behind Neuville while Toyota Gazoo Racing Yaris driver Jari-Matti Latvala is just ahead of Craig Breen to be in fourth.
Breen held third position after the morning loop but slipped in the afternoon stages.
Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford Fiesta), Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20 WRC), world champion Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport Ford Fiesta), Stephane Lefebvre (Citroen DS3) and Elfyn Evans (M-Sport Ford Fiesta) complete the top 10.
Defending Rally Australia champion Mikkelsen said he had struck a fine balance with his machine in only his third event since being hired by the German-based Korean manufacturer.
"It's been really amazing. The car feels like home now," Mikkelsen said.
"It's the perfect day for us so far. With these roads and this car it's so nice because I can do exactly what I want."
Meeke was sporting some battle damage to the front splitter after SS6 as he struggled to come to grips with tyre compound choices.
"Just trying to work it out to be honest," Meeke said.
"We've been through softs and I went through hards. It seems like the tyre choice is a mixed bag."
Neuville was also not comfortable with the tyres after the 26.68km SS6.
"I struggled a bit with the soft tyres on this one and the rear was sliding too much, especially the left rear.
"I couldn't really push in the right-hand corner and I lost a bit of time in there."