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IRC Yalta: Yuriy Protasov leads as frontrunners skip Ukraine round

Yuriy Protasov, Ukraine 2012Local driver Yuriy Protasov leads the Intercontinental Rally Challenge's Ukraine round after an eventful first full day.

All of the regular IRC frontrunners have chosen to skip this year's Yalta Rally, including championship leader Andreas Mikkelsen - the only man who had contested every round so far in 2012.

In their absence, Protasov and Finnish sometime British Rally Championship regular Mikko Pajunen staged an entertaining early battle.

Pajunen was quickest on Friday's superspecials but lost the lead to fellow Ford driver Protasov early on Sunday.

The Finn fought back to lead after stage four, fell behind Protasov again on the next stage, and then crashed out on the first stage following lunchtime service.

That left Protasov with a two-and-a-half minute lead over Turkey's Yagiz Avci - which he promptly lost due to a puncture.

But Protasov rapidly regained first place by beating Avci by over a minute on the day's final stage.

He leads by 38.3s going into Sunday's concluding leg, with Laszlo Vizin third in a Skoda Fabia.

Leading positions after SS8:

Pos  Driver               Car           Time/Gap
 1.  Yuriy Protasov       Ford        1h42m14.7s
 2.  Yagiz Avci           Ford           + 38.3s
 3.  Laszlo Vizin         Skoda        + 4m12.1s
 4.  Robert Consani       Renault      + 5m32.7s
 5.  Vlad Cosma           Citroen      + 6m35.0s
 6.  Mykola Chmykh        Subaru       + 7m10.1s
 7.  Marco Tempestini     Subaru       + 7m12.6s
 8.  Oleksiy Panov        Honda        + 9m44.5s
 9.  Marco Cavigoli       Mitsubishi  + 10m24.1s
10.  Ekaterina Stratieva  Citroen     + 11m45.0s
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