Rally Azores: Mikkelsen takes early lead

A small psychological advantage over Juho Hänninen

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By Olivier Ferret

23 February 2012 - 19:38
Rally Azores: Mikkelsen takes early (...)

After SS1: Mikkelsen fastest on first stage

Reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Andreas Mikkelsen has taken an early lead on SATA Rallye Açores after going fastest on the event’s opening stage, the 8.25-kilometre Coroa da Mata test.

The ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver was 3.2s faster than factory ŠKODA driver Juho Hänninen despite picking up a front-left puncture nearing the end of the test.

“I got a puncture on the third last corner but it’s okay,” said Mikkelsen, who finished second in the Azores last season.

Hänninen, who is running first on the road in his Fabia S2000, suggested the slippery nature of the stage surface had cost him precious seconds.

Bryan Bouffier was third fastest in his Delta Rally Peugeot 207 S2000 with Bruno Magalhães the leading Portuguese driver in fourth overall in another Peugeot. The Lisbon-based driver was 15.8s adrift of Mikkelsen’s stage best.

Multiple Azorean rally champion Ricardo Moura, one of the favourites for IRC Production Cup glory, said he had not been “pushing at 100 per cent” in his efforts to win the Group N category for a third year in a row.

After SS2: Hänninen closes on Açores top spot

Juho Hänninen has hit back on SATA Rallye Açores by winning the second stage of the event. It means he has narrowed fellow ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 driver Andreas Mikkelsen’s overall lead to 1.2s with one stage of the opening day’s action remaining.

Finn Hänninen took 5m08.5s to complete the São Brás/Vila Franca stage, which was shortened by 10 kilometres due to road damage caused by recent rainfall. He was 2.0s quicker than Mikkelsen, the defending Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion.

Bryan Bouffier was third fastest in his Peugeot 207 S2000 after reporting being too cautious over rough sections of the stage. Portugal’s Bruno Magalhães was fourth in his similar car, despite losing ground when he had to reverse following a handbrake fault.

IRC Production Cup contender Ricardo Moura reported a throttle problem on his Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer but still managed to outpace ŠKODA Auto Deutschland’s Sepp Wiegand, who is competing in the Azores for the first time.

After SS3: Mikkelsen edges superspecial

Andreas Mikkelsen has gained a small psychological advantage over Juho Hänninen by edging his rival over the 2.20-kilometre Grupo Marques superspecial stage.

Crews tackled the test in pairs with ŠKODA UK Motorsport’s Mikkelsen going up against factory ŠKODA driver Hänninen in a dramatic head-to-head battle for supremacy. Cheered on by thousands of enthusiastic fans, the Norwegian beat the Finn by 0.2s over the purpose-built course.

It means Mikkelsen’s overall advantage now stands at 1.4s heading to the overnight halt in Ponta Delgada.

Peugeot drivers Bryan Bouffier and Bruno Magalhães were joint third quickest in their 207s with Ricardo Moura fifth and Oleksandr Saliuk sixth. Moura reported nudging a stage-side barrier with his Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer.

ŠKODA-mounted German duo Sepp Wiegand and Hermann Gassner Jr were seventh and eighth fastest respectively.

Crews are now heading back to Ponta Delgada for a 45-minute service halt.

Standings after SS3:

Pos.DriverCarTime
1. Mikkelsen A. - Floene O. Škoda Fabia S2000 13:53.7
2. Hänninen J. - Markkula M. Škoda Fabia S2000 +1.4
3. Bouffier B. - Panseri S. Peugeot 207 S2000 +23.0
4. Magalhães B. - Magalhães C. Peugeot 207 S2000 +29.9
5. Wiegand S. - Gottschalk T. Škoda Fabia S2000 +52.0
6. Moura R. - Eiró S. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +53.7
7. Gassner jr. H. - Wicha K. Škoda Fabia S2000 +56.1
8. Salyuk jr. A. - Cherepin P. Ford Fiesta S2000 +1:17.5
9. Al-Ketbi R. - Al-Kendi K. Škoda Fabia S2000 +1:37.2
10. Tamrazov O. - Arena N. Ford Fiesta S2000 +1:42.9
11. Tempestini M. - Pulpea D. Subaru Impreza STi R4 +1:46.5
12. Silva S. - Nunes F. Subaru Impreza WRX +1:55.6
13. Barbosa M. - Reis J. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +1:56.9
14. Carmo R. - Diniz J. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +2:00.3
15. Rodrigues R. - Rodrigues E. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +2:00.7
16. Lousado R. - da Silva N. Subaru Impreza STi R4 +2:01.4
17. Hunt H. - Durant R. Citroen DS3 R3T +2:04.0
18. Maciel P. - Gouveia F. Citroen Saxo Cup +2:08.2
19. Rego L. - Rodrigues P. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +2:16.7
20. Torres R. - Martins M. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +2:37.4

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