Mikkelsen versus Hanninen again in Ireland

Once again, it's a two-Skoda breakaway at the front of a 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge round, as the series' most recent champions Andreas Mikkelsen and Juho Hanninen go head to head on the Circuit of Ireland.

Mikkelsen made small mistakes on both of the first loop's slippery full-length stages, brushing a gate on Legane, yet still managed to maintain a 2.8-second lead over Hanninen.

First on the road, Hanninen felt he lost too much tyre temperature waiting for the slightly delayed Legane stage to get underway, but was on the pace soon enough. Mikkelsen was also running heavier cuts on his tyres than Hanninen.

"We had a big wait on the startline - I don't know what the delay was," said Hanninen. "But then luckily it was drying up near the finish, so we gained more and more."

Canarias winner Jan Kopecky is already half a minute behind in third in the second works Skoda.

"I have to say I'm not happy with my driving," said Kopecky. "It's not my day today."

Craig Breen was best of the home contingent in fourth, with just eight seconds covering the WRC Academy champion, his Sainteloc team-mate Mathieu Arzeno, and the Ford of last week's Portugal WRC Academy winner Alastair Fisher after SS3. But then Breen arrived late into service following a fuel pump issue on the road section, so is set to pick up penalties.

Robert Barrable is next up, while Sepp Wiegand dropped back from this group with an SS3 puncture.

Source: Max Rally