Andreas Mikkelsen made a perfect start to his Intercontinental Rally Challenge title defence by taking a comfortable Rally Azores victory
The Skoda UK driver led from the outset, and although factory Skoda man Juho Hanninen was right on his tail initially, Mikkelsen started stretching away even before a quick spin on Friday cost his rival some time. In the end, the gap between them was 25 seconds, as Mikkelsen took a third straight win following his Scotland and Cyprus triumphs at the end of 2011.
Bryan Bouffier's third place was secure once fellow Peugeot driver Bruno Magalhaes rolled out on Friday afternoon. The 2011 Monte Carlo winner had no answer to the leading Skodas' pace this weekend.
German Skoda duo Sepp Wiegand and Hermann Gassner Jr fought for fourth all weekend, with Wiegand finally breaking clear when Gassner made a mistake and sustained a puncture on the penultimate stage.
Leading finishers:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK 2h12m43.2s 2. Juho Hanninen Skoda + 25.1s 3. Bryan Bouffier Peugeot + 2m04.8s 4. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Deutschland + 5m20.3s 5. Hermann Gassner Jr Red Bull Skoda + 6m23.9s 6. Ricardo Moura Mitsubishi + 8m43.5s 7. Oleksandr Salyuk Iurii Chemezov Ford + 10m28.1s 8. Sergio Silva Subaru + 16m00.1s 9. Ruben Rodrigues Mitsubishi + 17m15.0s 10. Miguel Barbosa Mitsubishi + 18m01.6s
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