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WRC NEWS 

WRC Australia: Andreas Mikkelsen captures lead after opening stages

Andreas Mikkelsen claimed the lead of a World Rally Championship round for the first time in his career following the opening two Rally Australia stages.

The all-asphalt, mile-long test, run twice through the town, is little more than a loosener for tomorrow's all-gravel action on the roads surrounding Coffs.

Regardless of the mileage completed, Mikkelsen was still thrilled with his status as rally leader.

It's also the first time Mikkelsen's stand-in co-driver, Irishman Paul Nagle, has led a WRC event. The pair are competing together for the first time following a back injury sustained by Mikkelsen's regular co-driver Mikko Markkula on Rally Finland.

Britain's Kris Meeke backed up his early qualifying form, where he was quickest, with an early second overall on his first drive for the Citroen factory team.

Meeke starts tomorrow just 0.9 seconds behind Mikkelsen's Volkswagen Polo R WRC.

Jari-Matti Latvala is third, with his world championship-chasing team-mate Sebastien Ogier a further tenth of a second down in fourth.

Local hero Nathan Quinn made a sensible start to the event, placing his Mini 10th, 10.3s off the front.

Ukrainian Subaru driver Yuri Protasov takes an early WRC 2 lead, with Yazeed Al-Rajhi's Fiesta just half a second behind him.

Pos  Driver              Team/Car            Time/Gap
 1.  Andreas Mikkelsen   VW                  2m45.3s
 2.  Kris Meeke          Citroen               +0.9s
 3.  Jari-Matti Latvala  VW                    +1.4s
 4.  Sebastien Ogier     VW                    +1.5s
 5.  Mikko Hirvonen      Citroen               +1.9s
 6.  Thierry Neuville    M-Sport Ford          +2.7s
 7.  Mads Ostberg        M-Sport Ford          +4.6s
 8.  Evgeny Novikov      M-Sport Ford          +6.5s
 9.  Khalid Al Qassimi   Abu Dhabi Citroen     +8.1s
10.  Nathan Quinn        Italia Mini          +10.3s
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