Thierry Neuville followed up his maiden win in Corsica by taking an early lead on the next round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, Ukraine's Yalta Rally
Just two short stages were run today as a warm-up for the main action on Thursday and Friday.
Neuville was quickest on SS1, and though he was pipped by his Kronos Peugeot team-mate Guy Wilks on SS2, the Belgian had enough in hand to lead Wilks by 0.1 seconds in the overall standings.
Patrik Sandell (Skoda Sweden) got his second IRC appearance off to an encouraging start with third, ahead of fellow Skoda men Andreas Mikkelsen and Toni Gardemeister.
Behind Peugeot France's Bryan Bouffier and works Skoda driver Jan Kopecky, Giandomenico Basso is currently top Proton in eighth, followed by Karl Kruuda - making his four-wheel-drive debut in a Skoda.
Reigning champion Juho Hanninen looked set for third place but was awarded a 10s penalty for jumping the stage start, and with times so closely packed at this point, that dropped him right back to 11th.
Leading positions after SS2:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Thierry Neuville Peugeot Belux (Kronos) 4m30.6s 2. Guy Wilks Peugeot UK (Kronos) + 0.1s 3. Patrik Sandell Skoda Sweden + 2.1s 4. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK + 2.2s 5. Toni Gardemeister TGS Skoda + 3.2s 6. Bryan Bouffier PH Peugeot + 3.5s 7. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 5.5s 8. Giandomenico Basso Proton + 5.5s 9. Karl Kruuda ME3 Skoda + 6.7s 10. P-G Andersson Proton + 8.5s
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