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Neuville takes early Yalta lead

Thierry Neuville, Kronos Peugeot, Yalta 2011Thierry Neuville followed up his maiden win in Corsica by taking an early lead on the next round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, Ukraine's Yalta Rally.

Just two short stages were run today as a warm-up for the main action on Thursday and Friday.

Neuville was quickest on SS1, and though he was pipped by his Kronos Peugeot team-mate Guy Wilks on SS2, the Belgian had enough in hand to lead Wilks by 0.1 seconds in the overall standings.

Patrik Sandell (Skoda Sweden) got his second IRC appearance off to an encouraging start with third, ahead of fellow Skoda men Andreas Mikkelsen and Toni Gardemeister.

Behind Peugeot France's Bryan Bouffier and works Skoda driver Jan Kopecky, Giandomenico Basso is currently top Proton in eighth, followed by Karl Kruuda - making his four-wheel-drive debut in a Skoda.

Reigning champion Juho Hanninen looked set for third place but was awarded a 10s penalty for jumping the stage start, and with times so closely packed at this point, that dropped him right back to 11th.

Leading positions after SS2:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car                Time/Gap
 1.  Thierry Neuville    Peugeot Belux (Kronos)   4m30.6s
 2.  Guy Wilks           Peugeot UK (Kronos)       + 0.1s
 3.  Patrik Sandell      Skoda Sweden              + 2.1s
 4.  Andreas Mikkelsen   Skoda UK                  + 2.2s
 5.  Toni Gardemeister   TGS Skoda                 + 3.2s
 6.  Bryan Bouffier      PH Peugeot                + 3.5s
 7.  Jan Kopecky         Skoda                     + 5.5s
 8.  Giandomenico Basso  Proton                    + 5.5s
 9.  Karl Kruuda         ME3 Skoda                 + 6.7s
10.  P-G Andersson       Proton                    + 8.5s
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