Bruno Magalhaes has pulled out a surprise lead in Rally Azores as the Intercontinental Rally Challenge title rivals had difficult starts to day two of the event
Local driver Magalhaes (Peugeot Portugal) started the day in joint second with Andreas Mikkelsen, just 0.2 seconds behind overnight leader Juho Hanninen's Skoda.
But Hanninen was one of three drivers to suffer slow punctures on today's opening stage, along with Kris Meeke (Peugeot UK) and Portuguese championship leader Bernardo Sousa (Ford), which left Magalhaes and Mikkelsen clear at the front.
Mikkelsen then struggled through the next two stages - ending SS5 perplexed at his relative lack of pace, and then admitting after SS6 that his lack of experience on the event was costing him, especially as he made his pace notes in thick fog earlier in the week.
That meant Mikkelsen fell to third in his Ford, with Jan Kopecky moving up to second for Skoda, 9.4s behind the ecstatic Magalhaes.
Hanninen has recovered quickly and is right on Mikkelsen's tail in fourth, but Meeke's rally has gone further downhill, with a spin on SS6 costing him more time and leaving him 45s off the lead.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Bruno Magalhaes Peugeot 43m28.3s 2. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 9.4s 3. Andreas Mikkelsen Ford + 20.1s 4. Juho Hanninen Skoda + 20.3s 5. Kris Meeke Peugeot + 45.5s 6. Bernardo Sousa Ford + 1m03.9s 7. Vitor Pascoal Peugeot + 1m50.6s 8. Ricardo Moura Mitsubishi + 1m56.2s 9. Pedro Peres Mitsubishi + 2m11.6s 10. Pedro Vale Mitsubishi + 3m18.2s
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