Andreas Mikkelsen holds a narrow lead over series returnee Giandomenico Basso and World Rally star Dani Sordo at the end of day one of the latest Intercontinental Rally Challenge round in Corsica
Basso, driving an A-Style-run Ford, was quickest on the first of leg one's three stages, before fastest time on SS2 took championship leader Mikkelsen (Skoda UK) from fourth to first.
He heads for the overnight halt 1.8 seconds ahead of Basso, and 2.8s clear of Sordo, who is the first top-line driver to showcase the S2000 Mini in the IRC.
A stage win on SS3 took Pierre Campana's Munaretto Peugeot up to fourth place, 19.3s off the lead, and just ahead of Mathieu Arzeno (Sainteloc Peugeot), with 2011 title contenders Jan Kopecky (Skoda) and Bryan Bouffier (Delta Peugeot) next up. Kopecky had a minor off-road excursion on SS3, while Bouffier rued excessive understeer.
Further back, Hermann Gassner Jr's Red Bull Skoda has been delayed by a puncture, and Craig Breen's Sainteloc Peugeot has been hampered by driveshaft issues.
Leading positions after SS3:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK 46m20.8s 2. Giandomenico Basso A-Style Ford + 1.8s 3. Dani Sordo SMG Mini + 2.8s 4. Mathieu Arzeno Sainteloc Peugeot + 18.3s 5. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 19.7s 6. Bryan Bouffier Delta Peugeot + 23.8s 7. Julien Maurin Ford + 26.6s 8. Jean-Marc Manzagol Peugeot + 1m15.0s 9. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Deutschland + 1m29.2s 10. Jean-Dominique Mattei Skoda + 1m33.6s
The fifth Intercontinental Rally Challenge was the best yet, and it was Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen who emerged as champion from a tense five-way shootout at the season finale. Matt Beer reviews the season