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Rally and Endurance

Friday 15th July 2011

ANDREAS SHOWS HIS PACE ON RALLY AZORES OPENER

Andreas Mikkelsen set the fastest time on the opening stage of Rally Azores yesterday, to lead the first gravel event in the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) in his ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia S2000. Co-driven by Ola Fløene, a power steering problem on the next two stages dropped him to 3rd by the end of Leg 1, just 5.7 seconds behind leader Juho Hänninen, with two long days of rallying on the mid-Atlantic archipelago remaining.

After thousands of fans had attended last night’s start ceremony in Ponta Delgada, today began well for Andreas as the 22-year old FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy driver set joint fastest time on this morning’s 1.8 mile (2.9km) shakedown stage, setting a 1min 44.0sec best with Hänninen.

Action began in earnest yesterday afternoon, with drivers aiming at two separate goals – either trying to lead the rally overnight, or not finish the short day in 5th position. With the top five due to start today’s Leg 2 in reverse order, nobody wanted to be the sacrificial road sweeper and lose time cleaning the surface and making conditions faster for rivals running behind.

Andreas considered attack was the best form of defence, and set the fastest time on SS1, 2.4 seconds faster than Hänninen. A power steering problem cost him time on SS2, but as the top five were counted at this point, Andreas was safely placed in 2nd, just 0.5 seconds behind Juho – meaning he started 4th on the road today.

Andreas lost a little more time on the Grupo Marques super special (which didn’t count towards today’s road position) and dropped to 3rd. With service before overnight parc ferme, the ŠKODA UK Motorsport team was able to repair the power steering in preparation for Leg 2.

Andreas: “We definitely didn’t want to run first on the road today, so I’m pleased with the way things worked out. We didn’t push too much on the opening stage, but we were able to find a good rhythm straight away and the pace was really encouraging.

“Half way through stage two smoke started coming from the bonnet and a kilometre later we lost power steering. It was a proper stage in a forest, with blind crests and tight corners, so I had to use all my strength not to lose too much time. We didn’t have power steering on the super special either, but that wasn’t such a difficult stage. It’s a shame that happened, but there is still a long way to go.”

Leg 2 began today at 09.30 and contains nine stages totalling 60.26 miles (96.99kms) – including two runs over one of the world’s most spectacular stages, Sete Cidades, which loops around the lip of a volcano, with a 720 metre drop straight down into the crater.

Eurosport will broadcast edited highlights of Legs 1 and 2 at 23.35 today.

Overall positions after SS3

1 Juho Hänninen/Mikko Markkula (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) 47m56.3s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) +10.1s
3 Bruno Magalhães/Paulo Grave (Peugeot 207 S2000) +30.4s
4 Jan Kopecký/Petr Starý (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) +32.8s
5 Patrik Sandell/Staffan Parmander (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) +1m35.9s
6 Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (Peugeot 207 S2000) +1m48.0s
7 Ricardo Moura/Sandro Eiró (Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX) +2m07.3s
8 Vitor Lopes/Hugo Magalhães (Subaru Impreza STI WRX) +3m07.1s
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