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Cyprus IRC: Andreas Mikkelsen takes early lead

Andreas Mikkelsen kicked off the weekend that will see him officially crowned as the final Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion by setting the pace on stage one in Cyprus.

With Skoda opting not to enter Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky for the season finale, reigning champion Mikkelsen's points lead is unassailable.

The Norwegian was quickest by 4.4 seconds on the Pafos street stage that kicked off the last rally in IRC history.

Production Cup driver Jarkko Nikara upstaged the rest of the Super 2000 pack with second place in his Subaru.

World Rally regular and 2010 Cyprus winner Nasser Al-Attiyah and double Production WRC champion Toshi Arai share fourth place, closely followed by series returnee Sepp Wiegand in the Skoda Deutschland Fabia.

The rally proper kicks off on Saturday morning with the first of 12 gravel stages.

Click here for AUTOSPORT's full analysis of the end of the IRC and the prospects for its European Rally Championship successor

Leading positions after SS1:

Pos  Driver                Team/Car               Time/Gap
 1.  Andreas Mikkelsen     Skoda UK                2m48.6s
 2.  Jarkko Nikara         Makinen Subaru           + 4.4s
 3.  Nasser Al-Attiyah     Qatar Ford               + 5.7s
 4.  Toshi Arai            Makinen Subaru           + 5.7s
 5.  Sepp Wiegand          Skoda Deutschland        + 6.7s
 6.  Yazeed Al Rajhi       Yazeed Ford              + 9.2s
 7.  Robert Consani        Renault                  + 9.5s
 8.  Paraskevas Paraskeva  Paraskevas Mitsubishi   + 11.5s
 9.  Andreas Aigner        Makinen Subaru          + 11.7s
10.  Armin Kremer          Subaru                  + 14.7s
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