Bruno Magalhaes is stamping his authority on Rally Azores, extending his lead over Jan Kopecky up to 13.3 seconds
The Portuguese Peugeot driver has been off the pace on gravel so far this year, but is flying on his home event, with a stage win on SS9 bolstering his advantage.
That made up for a scare two stages earlier, when Magalhaes had backed off in the belief that spectators were waving at him to slow down because of an obstacle or crash ahead, leaving the leader perplexed at the end of the stage.
The works Skodas are now second and third, with Juho Hanninen making good progress afer this morning's puncture and closing to within 3.8s of Kopecky.
Kris Meeke is back up to speed this afternoon, having discovered that his earlier handling problems were caused by his morning puncture affecting his Peugeot's geometry. He has now taken fourth from Andreas Mikkelsen as the Ford driver loses touch with the leaders.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Bruno Magalhaes Peugeot 1h08m00.7s 2. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 13.3s 3. Juho Hanninen Skoda + 17.1s 4. Kris Meeke Peugeot + 41.4s 5. Andreas Mikkelsen Ford + 41.8s 6. Bernardo Sousa Ford + 1m47.3s 7. Vitor Pascoal Peugeot + 2m53.1s 8. Ricardo Moura Mitsubishi + 2m56.2s 9. Pedro Peres Mitsubishi + 4m01.8s 10. Pedro Vale Mitsubishi + 5m30.9s
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