Bryan Bouffier has moved into the lead of the Yalta Rally on a dramatic first full morning on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge's debut in Ukraine
Thierry Neuville had won the first two stages of the day to extend his lead to 8.6 seconds over Bouffier, who had made quick progress from his overnight sixth place.
But a high-speed spin on SS5 Orlinoje left Neuville's Kronos Peugeot beached for three minutes, and allowed Bouffier to take the lead - despite the Peugeot France driver having lost time himself with clutch problems and having to overtake two late-running course cars.
After his jump-start penalty yesterday, reigning champion Juho Hanninen has already flown up from 11th to second for Skoda, and is only one second behind Bouffier. Hanninen's team-mate Jan Kopecky is third, despite a quick trip off the road on SS5.
With a lot of debris and dirt being dragged onto the stages, punctures have been very common this morning. Andreas Mikkelsen, Guy Wilks, Patrik Sandell, P-G Andersson and Giandomenico Basso have all been affected, although Wilks (Peugeot UK) and Mikkelsen (Skoda UK) have held on to fourth and sixth, split by Toni Gardemeister's TGS Skoda.
Basso had got up to an encouraging fifth for Proton prior to his puncture, and his team-mate Andersson is still seventh - but was concerned by low oil pressure at the end of SS5.
Neuville managed to get to the end of the stage in ninth, behind S2000 debutant Karl Kruuda, who also spent a while stuck in a ditch this morning in his ME3 Skoda.
Leading positions after SS5:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Bryan Bouffier PH Peugeot 51m23.7s 2. Juho Hanninen Skoda + 1.0s 3. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 19.9s 4. Guy Wilks Peugeot UK (Kronos) + 25.8s 5. Toni Gardemeister TGS Skoda + 1m09.2s 6. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK + 1m11.4s 7. P-G Andersson Proton + 2m15.5s 8. Karl Kruuda ME3 Skoda + 2m18.4s 9. Thierry Neuville Peugeot Belux (Kronos) + 3m00.0s 10. Cedric Cherain Renault + 3m12.9s
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