SS2: Sordo sets
early pace

Dani Sordo won the first two speed tests at Coates Hire Rally Australia on Friday morning to lead from Hyundai team-mate Hayden Paddon.

Stage info: SS1 / 2

SS1: Utungun 1, 7.88km
This is the first of Friday morning’s three new stages and runs through open farmland. After an initial 1.2km of asphalt, it switches to fast, flowing gravel. The first half is open but it becomes twistier for the final 4km, with long corners around the hills. There is plenty of loose gravel on the road surface, deep in places.

SS2: Bakers Creek 1, 16.75km
Bakers Creek is similar to the opener in its nature. After 2km of continuous twists and turns, it becomes more flowing. The middle section is tighter before an open run to the finish. There are several short sections of asphalt with a lot of gravel on the surface in the first 6km.

The Spaniard took advantage of a low start position on roads covered by a thick layer of slippery gravel to go fastest in Utungun by 0.7sec. He was also quickest in Bakers Creek by 1.6sec from Kiwi Paddon to lead in his i20 by 3.2sec.

Sordo described his morning as ‘perfect’, while Paddon said he drove cautiously through the second test to ensure his soft Michelin tyres were in premium condition for the fourth and longest stage of the morning.

Kris Meeke was 5.4sec off the lead after a top three time through Bakers Creek in Citroën’s DS 3 with Ott Tänak fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS. While most drivers opted for soft rubber all round, the Estonian bucked the trend with hard tyres on the front and soft on the rear.

“We tried to do something different. The balance felt a bit strange under braking but it was OK,” said Tänak.

The early starters struggled in the conditions, sweeping the gravel to leave a cleaner and faster line for those behind. Road opener and championship leader Sébastien Ogier was eighth, 13.1sec off the lead, with Jari-Matti Latvala two places and 3.0sec ahead.

Andreas Mikkelsen was a surprise second in Utungun to head his two Volkswagen colleagues in fifth, the Norwegian complaining that dust was coming into his Polo R.

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