Dimitar Iliev leads Rally Sliven by 11.7 seconds after the first full day, as local drivers dominate Bulgaria's round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge
For the second rally in a row, the usual frontrunners are absent, with the only IRC regulars in attendance being those from the lower classes.
Skoda driver Iliev led throughout Saturday's eight stages, holding countryman Petar Gyoshev at bay. The latter only made it out in the morning after a rapid service park repair having damaged his Peugeot on Friday night's superspecial.
Todor Slavov holds a remarkable third overall in his 2WD Cup Renault Clio R3, fending off Yalta winner Yagiz Avci's S2000 Ford.
Four-time Sliven winner Krum Donchew was delayed by a mistake on Friday night and a puncture on Saturday morning, but has recovered to fifth and is gaining on Slavov and Avci.
Eurosport and the FIA announced on Friday that the IRC will cease running after 2012, as the television firm instead takes on the running of the European Rally Championship.
Leading positions after SS9:Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Dimitar Iliev Skoda 1h12m58.7s 2. Petar Gyoshev Peugeot + 11.7s 3. Todor Slavov Renault + 2m24.9s 4. Yagiz Avci Ford + 2m34.6s 5. Krum Donchev Peugeot + 2m50.3s 6. Menyhert Krozser Renault + 4m18.3s 7. Martin Kangur Honda + 5m26.9s 8. Georgi Vasilev Mitsubishi + 6m37.4s 9. Murat Bostanci Ford + 6m57.7s 10. Robert Consani Renault + 7m29.1s
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