Mikkelsen holds 2 sec­ond lead in Rally Aus­tralia

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

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.

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