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WRC Rally Australia: Neuville into lead as Mikkelsen forced out

Andreas Mikkelsen damage WRC Australia 2017

Thierry Neuville leads the final round of the World Rally Championship season in Australia after his Hyundai team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen crashed on the second stage of the Saturday morning loop.

Mikkelsen, who was the overnight leader in only his third rally for the team, ran wide into a bank just over a mile onto the Newry stage.

His i20 picked up a double puncture, but he carried just one spare tyre, meaning he was unable to continue in the rally.

"It's devastating, but what can you do?" Mikkelsen said.

"We are trying to push as hard as we can, sometimes you get away with it, but not today.

"With our tyre choice, we didn't consider two spares. We were saving our tyres for later."

Jari-Matti Latvala Toyota WRC Australia 2017

The fast-charging Jari-Matti Latvala moved into second place for Toyota, just 6.3 seconds behind leader Neuville, after topping Newry.

Neuville won the longest stage of the rally - Nambucca - but missed a junction on Newry and reported gearbox issues at the end of the stage as a result of his trip off the road. Hyundai is now changing the gearbox in the lunchtime service.

Kris Meeke currently completes the top three, despite missing the same junction as Neuville and five-time champion Sebastien Ogier.

Ogier was 20.6s off the leading time on Nambucca and a further 28.9s on Newry. He ended the morning in seventh place, just over 15s adrift of Hayden Paddon.

Ogier's M-Sport team-mate Ott Tanak sits in fourth ahead of Rally Australia debutant Craig Breen, who is in an impressive fifth position in his Citroen C3.

Stephane Lefebvre is eighth in the third Citroen. He spun and stalled on Newry but did enough to keep Rally GB winner Elfyn Evans at bay. The Welshman labelled the grip in the morning as "horrendously bad" on his DMACKs.

Evans sits ninth in the overall classification with Esapekka Lappi rounding out the top 10.

Leading positions after SS11

1Thierry Neuville, N.GilsoulHyundai MotorsportHyundai1h38m40.2s
2Jari-Matti Latvala, M.AnttilaToyota Gazoo Racing WRCToyota6.3s
3Kris Meeke, P.NagleCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRTCitroen22.0s
4Ott Tanak, M.JarveojaM-Sport World Rally TeamFord26.8s
5Craig Breen, S.MartinCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRTCitroen45.8s
6Hayden Paddon, S.MarshallHyundai MotorsportHyundai54.6s
7Sebastien Ogier, J.IngrassiaM-Sport World Rally TeamFord1m08.9s
8Stephane Lefebvre, G.MoreauCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRTCitroen2m11.3s
9Elfyn Evans, D.BarrittM-Sport World Rally TeamFord2m28.9s
10Esapekka Lappi, J.FermToyota Gazoo Racing WRCToyota3m39.7s

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