Andreas Mikkelsen's outstanding run at Kennards Hire Rally Australia has ended when he suffered a double-puncture on the second stage of the day.
Mikkelsen was leading Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville by 15.6sec after the opening 48.89km Nambucca stage, but it all came apart on the following 20.87km Newry I test.
All crews can take up to two spare tyres; however, to save the 25kg weight Mikkelsen took just one extra. Under the rules cars are not allowed to start stages or drive on road sections with punctured tyres.
“It happened 2km after the start on a right-hander over a crest,” said Mikkelsen.
“In third or fourth gear I went wide and touched the bank quite hard. I thought I had just a rear puncture but soon after I felt the front too.
“It's devastating, but what can you do? 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.”
It meant that Neuville took the lead, but he reported a broken first gear opening the door for Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala who was on a charge throughout the morning to sit just 6.3sec behind, with Kris Meeke 22sec off the lead heading into service.
“I'm feeling good. The pace is good, we are going really quick but I'm disappointed the fight with Andreas is over,” said Neuville.
“We put the pressure on and he made a small mistake like many of it did at that place in Newry. We need a gearbox change now – I broke something when I turned around but it will be okay.”
There were no other major issues amongst the leading teams, with the other notable retirement from the morning being Australia's Brendan Reeves who rolled his Mazda on the opening stage. He and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino were reported as OK.
After service crews face a further five stages including the final runs on the Destination NSW waterfront Super Special Stages in the late afternoon.
VIDEO: Morning stages highlights
POSITIONS : Rally Australia -After SS11