Italy WRC: Mikkelsen leads Hyundai 1-2 on Friday morning
Andreas Mikkelsen holds a 14-second lead over Hyundai teammate Thierry Neuville after winning two of Friday morning’s four stages in Rally Italy.
Mikkelsen took six soft tyres aboard his i20 Coupe WRC and made the most of them in the damp conditions to win SS2 by 9.1 seconds.
Finally feeling at home in the car after a difficult season so far, the Norwegian also won SS3 to complete the morning at the head of the field.
Neuville was the first man on the road, but the overnight rain eradicated the disadvantage of sweeping away the loose gravel.
He confessed to pushing very hard and won the final stage of the morning loop by three seconds to overhaul the Toyota of Ott Tanak.
Tanak was the other driver to take a stage win, but struggled to find any confidence with the Yaris and he Estonian is 16.4 seconds away from the lead in third.
Teemu Suninen and Sebastien Ogier lie fourth and fifth respectively for M-Sport Ford, separated by just 0.1 seconds.
Suninen was unhappy with his driving in the slow first and second gear corners but still ended the loop ahead of his world champion teammate who was at a loss to explain his lack of speed.
Jari-Matti Latvala was another driver to lack confidence on Friday morning, the Toyota driver, who has retired from the last three rallies, heads to service sixth overall after passing Mads Ostberg in SS5.
Ostberg completed Friday’s opening stage second fastest but his pace began to fade as the morning wore on. The Norwegian cited his road position as a major factor to his time loss.
Hayden Paddon lies eighth overall on just his third rally of the season, suffering the opposite fortune to teammate Neuville with the wet conditions ruining any advantage he may have had.
Craig Breen is ninth after an overshoot on SS2 ahead of Esapekka Lappi who suffered a slow puncture on SS3. With just one spare, the Finn was forced to drive conservatively for the rest of the morning.
M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans was the biggest casualty of the morning loop, losing 13 minutes in SS2 with a broken steering arm. The Welshman ran wide on a slow right-hander and was forced to stop and change the component.
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