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WRC - Mikkelsen fends off polish rivals

Andreas Mikkelsen has taken the early lead in Rally Poland after five stages of this ultra-fast gravel round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Norwegian is however in the thick of a battle with Hayden Paddon and Ott Tanak, both of whom are within six seconds of the lead at the mid-leg service in Mikołajki.

The seventh round of the series got underway last night with a short super special stage, where Thierry Neuville set the pace in front of a crowd of thousands. Today, however, crews headed northeast of the rally base for the first of two loops of four stages and will return to Mikołajki for a second run around the super special stage tonight. Mikkelsen, runner-up last night, had a good run through the opening stage of the morning and went on to win the second test despite running over a rock. He lost some ground in the following two stages, ‘not quite on it’, but heads in to service with a 2.6 second lead over Paddon. The Kiwi driver leapt up the leaderboard this morning from seventh last night to second overall behind Tanak after the first stage, fastest time aiding his charge after disappointing retirements in the last two events. He went on to win the final stage of the morning, even though he struggled with understeer, and will be looking for improvements in all areas this afternoon. Tanak briefly led although the Estonian has been lacking some confidence in the handling of the car. He is now just 3.4 seconds adrift of Paddon.

Championship leader Sébastien Ogier has run without problems and is fourth just 5.4 seconds ahead of Rally Italia Sardegna winner Thierry Neuville. As road conditions got softer with the passage of cars, the Belgian was simply unable to push harder and struggled with the set up and speed of his pace notes. Jari-Matti Latvala has not entirely got into the groove of the event and is sixth, the Finn also picking up a puncture in SS4. Stephane Lefebvre, in the DS3 WRC, is seventh only one-tenth of a second adrift and he heads team-mate Craig Breen in the sister car. Eric Camilli is ninth and Mads Østberg 10th.

In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, Pontus Tidemand leads the charge ahead of Teemu Suninen, and Simone Tempestini has taken the advantage in the Junior WRC Championship category, early pacesetter Andrea Crugnola hitting problems.