IRC Cyprus: Nasser Al-Attiyah leads after Mikkelsen puncture

Nasser Al-Attiyah leads by 90 seconds at the midway point of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge's farewell event in Cyprus

IRC Cyprus: Nasser Al-Attiyah leads after Mikkelsen puncture

Series champion Andreas Mikkelsen lost his overnight lead when a puncture on the day's opening Koilinia stage cost him two minutes.

Four straight stage wins then got the Skoda UK Fabia back up from seventh to second, as Mikkelsen reduced Qatar Ford driver Al-Attiyah's advantage to 1m18s.

But another puncture on Panayia, Saturday's final stage, meant Mikkelsen dropped a further 12s to the leader, who had alternator problems and steering damage of his own during the morning. Six stages remain on Sunday to decide the victory.

Yazeed Al-Rahji ran second after SS2, only to crash dramatically on the next stage. Al-Rahji and co-driver Michael Orr were unhurt despite their Ford plunging a long way off the road.

Skoda Deutschland's Sepp Wiegand recovered from an early spin to run third until stopping his Fabia with broken steering on the last stage of the day.

Jarkko Nikara would have picked up the position had he not suffered a puncture nearby, then damaged his suspension while blinded by another car's dust cloud once he had resumed. Nikara's Tommi Makinen Racing Subaru team-mate Toshi Arai now holds the final provisional podium spot, despite the Japanese driver also spending a long time off the road on the first loop.

Click here for AUTOSPORT's full analysis of the end of the IRC and the prospects for its European Rally Championship successor

Leading positions after SS7: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah M-Sport Ford 2h00m59.5s 2. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK + 1m30.2s 3. Toshi Arai Makinen Subaru + 6m52.9s 4. Savvas Savva Telsa Mitsubishi + 9m55.0s 5. Jarkko Nikara Makinen Subaru + 10m16.6s 6. Armin Kremer Subaru + 10m58.2s 7. Kyriacos Kyriacou Subaru + 11m33.5s 8. Harry Hunt I-Cars Citroen + 11m48.4s 9. Laszlo Vizin Skoda + 12m11.2s 10. Menyhert Krozser MHH Citroen + 14m29.6s 
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Cyprus IRC: Andreas Mikkelsen takes early lead

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