Mikkelsen was 1.3s faster than his fellow ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 driver despite fearing his decision to select intermediate tyres for the morning loop of stages would slow him down due to the drying nature of the stage surface.
“The stage was a little more damp in the forest section but the slick was still the way to go,” said Mikkelsen. “I tried to push as much as I can.”
Hänninen, who was running a slick tyre with cuts for additional grip, said: “We had a lot of cuts but I think the others had even more cuts. It was difficult and the tyres were overheating but we are here. Now we have to flip the coin in service and make the tyre choice the other way.”
Jan Kopecký continues to lose time with his choice of rain tyres and was fourth fastest behind ŠKODA privateer Roman Kresta. Although the Czech is now 30.1s behind team-mate Hänninen, he said his priority remained scoring as many points as possible in the Czech championship, which is running in tandem with the main IRC event.
Several drivers reported a coating of mud in the forest section of the stage, with overnight leader Tomáš Kostka dropping to third behind Mikkelsen in the overall standings. Kostka and Swede Patrik Flodin were joint fifth quickest.
Robert Barrable has slipped from third to sixth after admitting to being too cautious in the forest section. “I backed off under the trees because it was very slippery,” he said. “I hit a rock inside on a long left-hander. I didn’t want to take too many chances.”
A 30-minute service halt in Otrokovice awaits the crews with the second running of Slušovice due to get underway at 13:10hrs local time. The stage will be broadcast live on Eurosport and free-to-air Czech TV.