European Rally Championship returnee Andreas Mikkelsen has edged further ahead of Alexey Lukyanuk in the battle for Rally Hungary victory, winning three stages in a row on Saturday morning.
Mikkelsen, competing in a rally for the first time since Monza Rally Show last December, took the lead on stage two and despite a spin on Füzér has increased his lead to 5.1 seconds over ERC points leader Lukyanuk.
Less than a second separated the pair for most of the morning loop but a damaged bonnet pin on Lukyanuk’s Citroën C3 R5 forced him to back off on Mád, allowing Mikkelsen to pull ahead.
Craig Breen has cemented his third place with a string of third-fastest times and is only 9.9s off the lead, despite a string of minor issues afflicting his morning.
A stall on Újhuta and a spin on Füzér had already cost Breen time on Saturday’s opening pair of stages and then had a distraction on Fóny, as one of his spare wheels had worked loose and was moving around.
Breen then criticised the location of spectators on Mád, highlighting they were standing in dangerous positions along high-speed sections of the stage.
“Please, do something the next time around because it’s so dangerous like that,” pleaded Breen at stage end.
ERC1 Junior’s title rivals Oliver Solberg and Grégoire Munster battled over fourth place, with the pair already 20s off the podium places after five stages.
Hyundai junior Munster had been marginally faster in the first half of Saturday’s four-stage morning loop but Solberg responded on Fóny and Mád, widening the gap between them to 5.8s.
Niki Mayr-Melnhof and Breen’s MRF team-mate Emil Lindholm are in a close battle for sixth, spending most of the morning separated by a few tenths of a second.
Despite ‘nearly flipping’ his Ford Fiesta Rally2 over a bump, Mayr-Melnhof finally built a small gap over Lindholm on Mád, taking a 1.4s advantage over Lindholm into midday service.
Reigning ERC3 Junior champion Efrén Llarena has fallen off the back of the sixth place battle in eighth, ahead of Norbert Herczig’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 and Lukyanuk’s Saintéloc team-mate Marijan Griebel who complete the top 10.
Tibor Érdi Jr has already amassed a lead of nearly two minutes in the ERC2 category, pulling well clear of his nearest title rivals Zelindo Melegari and Dmitry Feofanov.
Melegari initially looked to be pulling away from Feofanov in second place but a slow time on Fóny allowed Feofanov to close the gap down to only 3.9s.
Ken Torn’s hopes of sealing the ERC3 Junior crown in Hungary took a dent when he picked up a puncture on Mád, costing him the class lead to title rival Pep Bassas.
The Spaniard began on the back foot by dropping half a minute on Újhuta, allowing Torn to pull away out front by building a 18.9s lead over Norbert Maior.
Maior – making his official ERC debut after competing on Rally Hungary last year in the national class – suffered a broken driveshaft on Fóny, dropping his Peugeot 208 Rally4 out of the lead fight and promoted Bassas to second.
Torn had dropped 8.8s on Fóny with a spin but worse was to come, as 40s was lost to nursing a puncture on his Ford Fiesta Rally4 to the finish line of Saturday morning’s final stage, handing Bassas an 11.6s lead.
Martin László had been running third in a 2019-spec Fiesta but lost four-and-a-half minutes on Mád, which should have promoted Maior back to the podium places. But Maior didn’t even complete the stage, suffering a broken front-left driveshaft that forced him to park the Peugeot and retire.
Instead, Ola Nore Jr was promoted to third in the Toksport-run Renault Clio Rally5, though Junior World Rally Championship regular Raul Baidu is only 7.8s behind Nore in a first-generation 208 R2.
Nore’s Toksport team-mate Rachele Somaschini failed to start on Saturday, withdrawing from the event after she dislocated her shoulder on Friday’s rally-opening superspecial.
Leading positions after SS5
1 Mikkelsen (Škoda) 34m48.9s
2 Lukyanuk (Citroën) +5.1s
3 Breen (Hyundai) +15.0s
4 Solberg (Škoda) +34.3s
5 Munster (Hyundai) +40.1s
6 Mayr-Melnhof (Ford) +46.5s
7 Lindholm (Škoda) +47.9s
8 Llarena (Citroën) +1m00.7s
9 Herczig (Volkswagen) +1m08.1s
10 Griebel (Citroën) +1m10.5s