Mikkelsen heads IRC in Hungary
Driving a Škoda UK Motorsport Fabia S2000, Mikkelsen holds sway over team-mate Jan Kopecký by just 8.7 seconds, with Peugeot ace Thierry Neuville a further 12.7 seconds behind.
Mikkelsen won all but one of the morning’s loop of four stages. Kopecký initially complained that his Fabia was too stiff, and that he did not like some aspects of the course, but between the stages he finessed the set-up of his car and by the afternoon he was on a roll, setting commandingly the quickest time on all three stages after the lunchtime service.
Thierry Neuville was on impressive form in the Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg 207 S2000, occupying second place overall for the first four stages and showing a thoroughly mature outlook. He made it very clear that he wasn’t going to risk his car by pushing to keep up with Mikkelsen, but still managed to post stage times within the top three on all but one occasion. He too made set-up changes throughout the day to improve the car, and finished the final stage with a firm grip on the final podium position.
For the opening two stages a clearly delighted Frigyes Turán held third place in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000, but the top 10 was so tightly contested that no mistake went unpunished. On SS3 he posted the 10th quickest stage time and lost three places overall. Although he recovered, moving back up to fifth, in the heat of the afternoon he made a mistake shortly before the end of SS5, clipping one of the logs at the apex of a corner and rolling off the road.
BFO-Škoda Rally Team’s Freddy Loix spent the morning recreating his exploits on the final day of the Barum Rally, matching Kopecký’s pace to the tenth of a second. But he failed to find the same level of set-up improvements and on the second run through the stages he slipped back to fourth, unable to understand where he was losing time.
Peugeot UK’s Guy Wilks worked through the morning to improve the set-up of his 207 S2000, feeling that it was moving around too much. A calculated gamble to run the harder tyre compound paid off on SS3 when he set the fourth quickest time, but his day ended by the roadside in SS5 after a coolant hose retaining clip came off and his engine overheated.
Bryan Bouffier had a problematic morning in the Peugeot France 207 S2000, losing confidence in his pace notes from the first stage when he found tyre barriers which had been laid down on corners to prevent ‘cutting’ had been removed since the recce. Then in SS4 he had to back off when he rounded a corner to find spectators crossing the route. In that stage alone he lost 12.2s to the leader, but the retirements of Turán and Wilks enabled him to end the day in fifth place.
There was trouble early on for Proton when Giandomenico Basso halted after SS1 with an engine issue, then Per-Gunnar Andersson hit a kerb in SS2 and damaged a wheel. The Swede was able to continue but the impact had also damaged his Satria Neo S2000’s rear diff, adversely affecting the handling. Since the issue did not manifest itself until after the mid-morning service halt, Andersson had to take it easy through SS3 and SS4. This made his aim of a top 10 finish an even tougher task, even before he had to stop with a technical issue on SS6.
The rally concludes tomorrow.