Thierry Neuville will start the final day of the Tour de Corse with a 23.4-second lead after a commanding Friday afternoon performance
Though the opening stage of the latest loop of three had to be abandoned following Ari Vatanen's accident in the course car, once the action resumed with the delayed SS7, Neuville stamped his authority with a pair of stage wins.
That allowed the Kronos Peugeot to edge slightly away from Skoda's Jan Kopecky, who remains in a very tight battle for second with two other Fabias.
Freddy Loix closed to within 4.3s of Kopecky as he took third from Mikkelsen on SS8, but the latter is still within 1.3s of a potential podium spot as well.
Brief leader Bryan Bouffier is yet to make up any ground in his post-puncture recovery and remains sixth behind Pierre Campana.
Leading positions after SS8:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Thierry Neuville Peugeot Belux (Kronos) 1h52m23.0s 2. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 23.4s 3. Freddy Loix BFO Skoda + 27.7s 4. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK + 29.0s 5. Pierre Campana Munaretto Peugeot + 52.8s 6. Bryan Bouffier PH Peugeot + 1m09.8s 7. Julien Maurin Ford (private) + 2m53.5s 8. Bruno Magalhaes Peugeot Portugal + 3m01.9s 9. Toni Gardemeister TGS Skoda + 3m03.2s 10. Jean-Mathieu Leandri Peugeot (private) + 4m08.2s
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