Mikkelsen holds 2 second lead in Rally Australia
Andreas Mikkelsen will take a two second lead over teammate and world champion Sebastien Ogier into the final day of Rally Australia as Volkswagon tries to quit the World Rally Championship with a one-two finish in the drivers standings.
Norway’s Mikkeslen began the second day of the season-ending rally with a 15.4 second lead over Ogier but saw that advantage whittled down after suffering a clutch malfunction near the end of yesterday’s 16th stage.
He lost 9.8 seconds to Ogier as he finished the stage with the clutch pressed against the brake pedal, saying “I’m driving with the brakes on all the time.”
After 18 of the rally’s 23 stages, Mikkelsen had a time of 2 hours, 15 minutes, 6.2 seconds, two seconds faster than Ogier with New Zealand’s Haydon Paddon a further 10 seconds back in a Hyundai.
Volkswagon is leaving the world championship at the end of the season and hopes to go out on a high note in Australia after winning the world drivers and makers’ championships in each of the last four years.
Ogier has already clinched the 2016 drivers’ title but Mikkelsen came into Rally Australia in third place on the drivers’ standings, 14 points behind Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville who holds second.
Neuville will go into Sunday’s final day in fourth place in Australia, 33.8 seconds off Mikkelsen’s lead
Mikkelsen was able to keep Ogier and Paddon at bay during a sweltering day on rural roads in New South Wales state, despite the clutch mishap on the 14.84 kilometer final country speed test.
“I cut a corner like I had lots of others,” Mikkelsen said. “There was a bang and I think a rock must have hit under the car and bent the clutch pedal across the brake.
“I had to drive the rest of the stage with the brakes on. We used a ratchet strap to bend it back into place.”
Paddon was first to attack Mikkelsen in the opening test on the long Nambucca stage on which he relegated Ogier into third place.
When the 50.8 kilometer stage was repeated in the afternoon Ogier piled on the pressure, demoting Paddon to third and closing on Mikkelsen.
Belgium’s Neuville fell away from the podium battle when he chose hard compound tyres in the morning when traction was at its worst.
Despite overshooting a junction in hanging dust, Dani Sordo climbed two places to fifth.