COFFS HARBOR, Australia: Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen, chasing second place in this season’s FIA World Rally Championship, led Friday after winning five of the opening day special stages in the Rally Australia.
The young Volkswagen star held a 15.4 second advantage after 11 special stages south of Coffs Harbour, in New South Wales.
Mikkelsen is in a strong position to challenge second-place Belgian driver Thierry Neuville in the championship standings ahead of Sunday’s finish.
Newly crowned four-time champion Sebastien Ogier finished second, with three special stage wins, with Neuville in third place.
“We had a good morning and a good run, although it is very loose so I expected to lose more time,” Mikkelsen said.
“I think we are doing a really good job being third on the road so we will have to keep to this.
“We have to push if we want the win and so far it is looking good. The car is really perfect and I am feeling very comfortable in there.”
Ogier won the final two stages on the faster surfaces and was satisfied with his second position.
“Our position does not reflect the struggle we had this morning and I think maybe others are not making the best of their advantage being behind us,” Ogier said.
“It’s certainly better than I expected, but it is a struggle to clean the roads and I think it will be difficult to keep this position.”
Under WRC rules, Ogier will start first again on fresh stages Saturday, but Sunday’s running order will be set on Saturday’s results.