Azores - Andreas Mikkelsen leads into final day

Hanninen 2nd, Bouffier 3rd

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By Olivier Ferret

24 February 2012 - 19:44
Azores - Andreas Mikkelsen leads (...)

After SS4: Magalhaes closes up in Acores

Bruno Magalhães has closed to within 5.3s of third-placed Bryan Bouffier following stage four of SATA Rallye Açores, the seven-kilometre Feteiras test.

In slippery conditions, the former event winner was third fastest through the stage despite reporting his Peugeot 207 S2000 had been inflicted with a bout of oversteer.

“It was difficult, very slippery,” said the multiple Portuguese champion. “Sometimes you have grip, other times it is not much. I have to improve the traction because the car is always oversteering.”

Bouffier, meanwhile, said he slid wide in a few places due to the slippery nature of the stages.

In the battle for first place stage winner Andreas Mikkelsen has increased his overall lead to 3.2s after going 1.8s faster than rival and fellow ŠKODA Fabia S2000 driver Juho Hänninen through the run.

Sepp Wiegand, who was seventh fastest, admitted it was tough going running first on the road in his ŠKODA Auto Deutschland Fabia. As a result he has slipped to sixth overall behind IRC Production Cup leader Ricardo Moura. “It was really slippery and really muddy but there was no damage and no problems,” he said.

After SS5: Spin drama for Hanninen

There was drama on stage five of SATA Rallye Açores when second-placed Juho Hänninen suffered a high-speed spin in his ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia Super 2000.

Former IRC champion Hänninen was hunting down rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen when he spun on a fast downhill section in slippery conditions. He had to reverse to get pointing in the right direction again and dropped more than 10 seconds to Mikkelsen in the process.

It means the ŠKODA UK driver’s lead rises to 13.6s heading to the midday service halt in Ponta Delgada.

Fourth-placed Bruno Magalhães reported a “big, big moment” near the stage start in his Peugeot 207 S2000. He slips to 6.3s behind Bryan Bouffier, who is third overall in his Peugeot.

IRC Production Cup leader Ricardo Moura has dropped down from fifth to seventh behind Sepp Wiegand and Hermann Gassner Jr after admitting he was too cautious in the slippery downhill sections in his Ralliart Lancer.

Skydive Dubai’s Rashid Al-Ketbi is understood to have stopped in the stage with a broken right wheel while Oleksiy Tamrazov is also in trouble in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000, failing to complete the run. Harry Hunt has dropped out of the chase for the IRC 2WD Cup laurels with a reported radiator problem.

Gassner Jr and Subaru Impreza driver Marco Tempestini both completed the test with minor bodywork damage to their cars.

After SS6: Despair as Magalhaes crashes out

Bruno Magalhães’ bid for a podium finish on his home round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge is over after he rolled his Peugeot 207 Super 2000 on stage six of SATA Rallye Açores.

The Portuguese was chasing Bryan Bouffier for third place when he hit trouble on the repeat of the seven-kilometre Feteiras stage fortunately without injury to neither he nor co-driver Carlos Magalhães.

“I saw Bruno went off,” said Bouffier at the stage finish. “The crew are okay. We lost some time when the marshals tried to slow us down. His car is on the roof. It is finished for him.”

Out front, defending IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen has grown his overall advantage to 15.5s after winning the stage with a time that was 1.9s faster than factory ŠKODA pilot Juho Hänninen.

Magalhães’ exit promotes Sepp Wiegand to fourth overall with fellow German Hermann Gassner Jr up to fifth in his similar Fabia S2000. Ricardo Moura continues to lead the IRC Production Cup in sixth overall.

After SS7: Hanninen hits back in Açores

Juho Hänninen has hit back in the battle for victory on SATA Rallye Açores by winning the second pass through the Sete Cidades stage, which runs around the rim of a dormant volcano.

Hänninen was a slender 0.1s faster than event leader and defending Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Andreas Mikkelsen in a ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia Super 2000. The Finn now trails his Norwegian rival Mikkelsen by 15.4s.

Bryan Bouffier was third fastest in his Peugeot 207 S2000, which was sporting some bodywork damage at the end of the run.

Sepp Wiegand was fourth quickest with fellow German Hermann Gassner Jr just behind in fifth.

Oleksandr Saliuk reported struggling to see where he was going due to a misting windscreen in his Dream Team Ukraine M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000. The hindrance meant he was more than two minutes slower than Hänninen through the 23.97-kilometre test.

The all-Romanian crew of Marco Tempestini and Dorin Pulpea are out after they ripped a wheel off their Subaru Impreza.

Crews are now heading back to Ponta Delgada for a 30-minute service halt. Stage eight, Coroa da Mata 2, gets underway at 15:36hrs local time

After SS8: Weather causes cancellation

Stage eight of SATA Rallye Açores, the repeat of the 8.25-kilometre Coroa da Mata test, has been cancelled due to the worsening conditions of the road caused by rain and mud.

It means the next action for crews on the opening event of the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge season will be the São Brás stage, which goes live at 16:09hrs local time.

After SS9: Gassner snatches fourth from Wiegand

Hermann Gassner Jr has seized the initiative in the battle to be the top German finisher on SATA Rallye Açores by going faster than countryman Sepp Wiegand through Friday’s final stage.

Gassner’s endeavour and a stall for Wiegand following a mistake at a junction means Gassner has moved ahead of Wiegand into fourth position on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier. The ŠKODA Fabia S2000 drivers are separated by 9.9s in the overall classification.

“It was so slippery with so much more water on the road but it was okay and I’m happy,” said Gassner Jr.

Like Wiegand, Dream Team Ukraine’s Oleksandr Saliuk also suffered a stall when the engine in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 cut out in a watersplash. He was more than 50s off the pace as a result.

Rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen completed day two by winning the stage in his ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia. The Norwegian was 0.8s faster than main rival Juho Hänninen through the test to extend his advantage out front to 16.2s.

Bryan Bouffier praised the strength of his Michelin tyres after he avoided a puncture on the rock-strewn stage in his Peugeot 207 S2000. He was third fastest to strengthen his grip on the final podium spot.

Standings after SS9:

Pos.DriverCarTime
1. Mikkelsen A. - Floene O. Škoda Fabia S2000 1h05:34.0
2. Hänninen J. - Markkula M. Škoda Fabia S2000 +16.2
3. Bouffier B. - Panseri S. Peugeot 207 S2000 +1:17.8
4. Gassner jr. H. - Wicha K. Škoda Fabia S2000 +3:26.3
5. Wiegand S. - Gottschalk T. Škoda Fabia S2000 +3:36.2
6. Moura R. - Eiró S. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +4:55.8
7. Salyuk jr. A. - Cherepin P. Ford Fiesta S2000 +6:43.9
8. Silva S. - Nunes F. Subaru Impreza WRX +8:33.2
9. Rodrigues R. - Rodrigues E. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +10:10.1
10. Lousado R. - da Silva N. Subaru Impreza STi R4 +10:14.4
11. Barbosa M. - Reis J. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +10:42.8
12. Maciel P. - Gouveia F. Citroen Saxo Cup +11:05.7
13. Rego L. - Rodrigues P. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +11:10.4
14. Nogueira I. - Hugo V. Citroen DS3 R3T +13:10.0
15. Consani R. - Beynet C. Renault Clio R3 +13:30.5
16. Medeiros É. - Rego P. Citroen Saxo Cup +13:55.1
17. Moniz H. - Machado P. Citroen C2 R2 Max +15:10.4
18. Pimentel L. - Pimentel B. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +15:44.9
19. Carmo R. - Diniz J. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +16:23.5
20. Costa C. - Amaral D. Citroen C2 R2 GT +17:46.8

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