Mikkelsen takes early Rally Italy lead

Mikkelsen takes early Rally Italy lead
By AutoSport

08/06/2018 at 19:31

Andreas Mikkelsen holds a 14 second lead over Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville after winning two of Friday morning's four stages on Rally Italy.

Mikkelsen took six soft tyres aboard his i20 Coupe WRC and made the most of them in the damp conditions to win the second stage by 9.1 seconds.

Finally feeling at home in the car after a difficult season so far, the Norwegian also won the following stage 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 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 he struggled to find any confidence with the Yaris after suggesting the front-end of the car was understeering. The Estonian is 16.4 seconds away from the lead after five stages.

Teemu Suninen and Sebastien Ogier lie fourth and fifth respectively for M-Sport, with the two Fords separated by just 0.1 seconds.

Suninen was unhappy with his driving in the slow first and second gear corners but ended the loop ahead of his world champion team-mate 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 has retired from the last three rallies, but heads to service sixth overall after passing Mads Ostberg on stage five.

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 team-mate Neuville with the wet conditions ruining any advantage he may have had.

Craig Breen is ninth in the Citroen C3 WRC after an overshoot on the second stage having chosen the wrong tyres too, ahead of Toyota's Esapekka Lappi who suffered a slow puncture on the following stage.

With just one spare tyre remaining, 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 the second stage with a broken steering arm.

Evans ran wide on a slow right-hander and was forced to stop and change the component.

Leading positions after SS4: