Andreas Mikkelsen came, saw and has so far conquered Rally Hungary, leading on his return to the FIA European Rally Championship as part of a high-quality, multi-national entry.
The world championship event winner, competing in a Topp-Cars Rally Team-run, Pirelli-equipped Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, was a contender from the start alongside co-driver Ola Fløene.
After trailing ORLEN Team’s Polish champion Miko Marczyk through Friday’s opening superspecial, Mikkelsen was second to Alexey Lukyanuk on SS2, but able to take a lead he has yet to relinquish, despite a spin on SS3.
“It’s been a very good day,” said Mikkelsen, who has been fastest on five stages. “We’ve been driving within the limits and have a good gap for tomorrow, we can’t ask for much more. It’s one thing going testing with Pirelli, it’s great and keeps me fit but I’m a competitive guy, I love sports and I like to challenge myself and see where I am against the others. This is a good opportunity to do that.”
European championship leader Lukyanuk was 5.1s behind Mikkelsen at the midday service halt in Nyíregyháza but far from happy at the completion of SS6, reporting live on Facebook and YouTube that he’d been checked in to the stage start control five minutes early. The ensuing five-minute penalty has dropped the Russian firmly out of contention to the extent he’s unlikely to score ERC points of the first time this season in his Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 R5.
Craig Breen is second overnight, 23.6s behind Mikkelsen after an overshoot and a spin this morning. However, the Irishman underlined his star quality and the progress of his MRF Tyres by claiming a brace of stage wins in his Hyundai i20 R5. “To get a podium for MRF Tyres and the team is very important, they’ve been working so hard. It’s quite incredible to be getting stage wins after a short period of time.”
Third-placed Grégoire Munster reported the “biggest moment of my life” through a muddy section on SS8. Driving a Hyundai i20 R5 for BMA Autosport, Munster’s 51.8s ahead of closest ERC1 Junior rival, Rallye Team Spain’s ERC3 Junior champion Efrén Llarena, who is fifth overall behind fourth-placed Norbert Herczig, MOL Racing Team’s four-time national champion.
Emil Lindholm was fourth and firmly in contention for an overnight podium place after eight stages but was reported to have got stuck after going off the road in his Team MRF Tyres Škoda on SS9.
Oliver Solberg, Munster’s closest ERC1 Junior title rival, dropped down the order with a front-right puncture on SS7 then lost more time with a left-rear deflation on SS9. “I was running in the middle of the road, I honestly don’t know how it happened,” he said. “It’s so annoying to have two punctures now. The other drivers have moments and they don’t get anything.”
Solberg’s double delay in his Eurosol Fabia demoted him from third to ninth with double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel moving up to sixth, followed by Niki Mary-Melnhof and Callum Devine, who completed SS7 with a front-left puncture on his Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy Hyundai then lost 20s when he went backwards into a field on SS9.
Simon Wagner, on his first European championship start since his ERC1 Junior podium in the Czech Republic in August 2019, is a strong P10 after nine stages, followed by Devine’s Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy team-mate Josh McErlean, who is making his ERC debut in Hungary, and former Hungarian champion András Hadik.
Erik Cais started Rally Hungary on the back of winning two national rallies in his Yacco ACCR Team Ford Fiesta R5 MkII. But an off on SS2 wrecked his hopes of a strong result, although the Czech youngster underlined his promise with the second fastest time on the final stage, which he completed 1.2s down on rally leader Mikkelsen. He’s P13 overnight.
Brose Motorsport’s German hope Dominik Dinkel is P14 having been hampered by a pop-off valve issue, damaged wheel rim and, more significantly, a faulty intercom, which meant he was hearing co-driver Ursula Mayrhofer’s pacenotes only intermittently. Yoann Bonato is P15 after he went off on SS3. Miko Marczyk is P16 after stopping to change a puncture.
Albert von Thurn und Taxi is P17 with Alexey Lukyanuk a distant P18. Frigyes Turán, last year’s winner, is P19 having dropped out of contention with a puncture on SS2. Rally driver turned rallycross regular Csuscu is P20.