Andreas Mikkelsen is only 0.7s off the lead of Rally Hungary on his first competitive outing of 2020, just behind 2019 Polish Rally Champion Miko Marczyk and with Oliver Solberg in tow.
A series of unusual events punctuated the opening superspecial of the fourth round of the European Rally Championship season, held at the Rabócsiring circuit which is also used as a rallycross venue.
There were multiple red flags, firstly due to the front-left suspension on Andrea Mabellini’s Fiat 124 Abarth causing his car to block the stage and require recovery.
A second bizarre incident involved an arch over the stage deflating when its generator died, halting the stage further.
Many were also left confused by the start procedure, with multiple drivers telling DirtFish they had only around five seconds between pulling up to the start line and the countdown to start beginning.
Confusion reigned as Yoann Bonato ran alone in the two-car format, going on to record a time 20s slower than Marczyk on an otherwise normal run.
Hyundai World Rally Championship factory driver Craig Breen was almost caught out by the same short hold time when it was his turn to race in his Team MRF i20 R5.
“Stupid start. Only there for a second or two before I realised I had to go,” Breen commented afterwards.
ERC3 Junior runner Amaury Molle was also caught out in the same manner, as his car hadn’t been fully switched into stage mode before heading off into the test.
Marczyk leads an ERC event for the first time but his stage win was not a surprise, having also topped the timesheets on the Mikołajki Areana superspecial on Rally Poland last year.
Mikkelsen went one second faster than fellow Škoda Fabia R5 driver Solberg, with ERC regular Erik Cais fourth in a Ford Fiesta R5 MkII and reigning Hungarian champion Ferenc Vincze completing the top five. Breen is in seventh, 2.7s off the lead.
ERC points leader Alexey Lukyanuk’s start didn’t go to plan either, stalling off the line and dropping over five seconds as he was also caught unaware by the rapid starting procedure.
Lukyanuk now heads into Saturday in 20th place, while Solberg’s nearest rival for the ERC1 Junior title Grégoire Munster is only 0.5s ahead of the Saintéloc-run Citroën C3 R5 driver in 17th.
Tibor Érdi Jr already has a 7.2s lead in ERC2 over Zelindo Melegari, while Martin László tops ERC3.
Ken Torn, who can clinch the ERC3 Junior title this weekend, is fourth, 1.8s ahead of title rival Pep Bassas.
Leading positions after SS1
1 Miko Marczyk (Škoda) 1m38.5
2 Andreas Mikkelsen (Škoda) +0.7s
3 Oliver Solberg (Škoda) +1.7s
4 Erik Cais (Ford) +2.0s
5 Ferenc Vincze (Škoda) +2.4s
6 András Hadik (Ford) +2.6s
7 Craig Breen (Hyundai) +2.7s
8 Miklós Csomós (Škoda) +2.7s
9 Simon Wagner (Škoda) +3.2s
10 Emil Lindholm (Škoda) +3.3s