Third consecutive podium for IRC leader
Skoda secures one-two-three finish
Juho Hanninen and Skoda have made it three different winners from three rounds of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge following a dominant victory on Rally Argentina, which finished with a spectacular superspecial stage through the streets of host town Carlos Paz earlier today (Sunday).
The Finn, who drives for the factory Skoda Motorsport team, builds his overall title lead to five points after claiming his first win of the season. Proof of the 28-year-old’s impressive performance on the challenging gravel event was underlined by the fact he won 11 of the 15 special stages, despite having to run first on the road on the final day of the rally.
Hanninen’s win also marked Skoda’s maiden victory of the 2010 IRC and has given the Czech firm a 22-point lead in the IRC manufacturers‘ standings after three rounds.
Briton Guy Wilks finished runner-up after a strong drive, which helped him to cement his second place in the drivers‘ table. Wilks started Sunday’s final leg intent on closing on overnight leader Hanninen but a minor brake problem on his Fabia S2000 cost him valuable time and meant he had to settle for second.
Kris Meeke, in a Peugeot 207, was also hamstrung by mechanical problems, an electronic issue contributing to an intermittent throttle glitch, which led to a fraught midday service while his Peugeot UK mechanics worked to rectify the problem. He looked set to hold on to third place until disaster struck on the penultimate stage of the event when a steering bolt broke and forced him to retire. Meeke’s misfortune let in Jan Kopecky for third place to complete a one-two-three for Skoda.
Gabriel Pozzo finished as the top Argentine driver in fourth overall after edging ahead of countryman Federico Villagra on Sunday’s fourth stage to secure the first IRC manufacturer championship points for Subaru. Pozzo’s performance meant he also secured his second win in a row in the Argentinean championship, which ran alongside the main IRC event.
Villagra reported that his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000, which he was using in competition for the first time, lacked outright pace on the sandy stages although he conceded he was still getting to grips with his car.
Bruno Magalhaes scored points for the third time this season in his Peugeot Portugal 207. He reported his car had struggled for power on the higher altitude stages but said he was satisfied at the progression he had made throughout the weekend.
Argentine Nicolas Madero held onto his overnight seventh place at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Paraguay’s Diego Dominguez claimed the final point in eighth place in a similar Lancer with Alejandro Cancio and Juan Marchetto rounding out the top 10 in ninth and 10th respectively.
Claudio Menzi started the final day in ninth but incurred a 50-second penalty for leaving first service late after he missed his alarm call and failed to wake up in time. A front-right puncture, caused by hitting a rock on stage 11, added to his woes and dropped him to 11th.
Nasser Al-Attiyah’s IRC debut ended in retirement when his Skoda Fabia ingested too much water going over a river crossing and triggered a misfire. Daniel Oliveira retired his Peugeot 207 with suspension damage after going off on stage 11.
Brazilian Rafael Tulio took the IRC 2WD Cup laurels in his Peugeot 206. He had trailed Argentine Pablo Pelaez initially but moved in front on stage five on Saturday when Pelaez damaged the front of his Honda Civic going through a water splash, which caused the engine to overheat.
Juho Hanninen was fastest on 11 of the 15 stages in Argentina
Juho Hanninen (Finland), Skoda Fabia S2000, first overall: "I’m very happy but a little bit surprised how good everything has been for me on this rally. There was a lot of fog on the first stage but I knew I didn’t need to push. I took it easy to avoid the rocks but I also had to keep my rhythm to avoid making any mistakes. It’s been safe and fast you could say and I have had a very good feeling. I would like to have the same feeling on every rally."
Guy Wilks (United Kingdom), Skoda Fabia S2000, second overall: "We’ve had a fantastic two rallies in South America with two second places and Skoda UK Motorsport has done a magnificent job. Juho drove very well and we maintained a fast and safe pace. I’m looking forward to fine tuning the set-up and challenging for victory on our next event."
Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic), Skoda Fabia S2000, third overall: "I’m very happy to be on the podium after quite a difficult rally but I think without Kris having the problem it would not have been possible. It was bad luck for him but good for me."
Co-driver Mikko Markkula and Juho Hanninen celebrate victory
TOP TEN IRC POSITIONS AFTER LEG TWO
1 Juho Hanninen/Mikko Markkula Skoda Fabia S2000 2h30m38.1s
2 Guy Wilks/Phil Pugh Skoda Fabia S2000 +51.0s
3 Jan Kopecky/Petr Stary Skoda Fabia S2000 +2m20.1s
4 Gabriel Pozzo/Daniel Stillo Subaru Impreza STI +5m03.9s
5 Federico Villagra/Jorge Perez Companc Ford Fiesta S2000 +5m14.2s
6 Bruno Magalhaes/Carlos Magalhaes Peugeot 207 S2000 +6m11.0s
7 Nicolas Madero/Guillermo Piazzano Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +6m47.5s
8 Diego Dominguez/Edgardo Galindo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +7m39.3s
9 Alejandro Cancio/Santiago Garcia Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +8m38.3s
10 Juan Marchetto/Gustavo Franchello Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +9m17.6s
Leading IRC 2WD Cup finishers: Rafael Tulio/Cesar Valandro (Peugeot 206)
Drivers after round three of 12
1 Juho Hanninen (Finland) 24pts
2 Guy Wilks (United Kingdom) 19pts
3 Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic) 15pts
4 Kris Meeke (United Kingdom) 10pts
= Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) 10pts
6 Bruno Magalhaes (Portugal) 9pts
7 Nicolas Vouilloz (France) 6pts
8 Gabriel Pozzo (Argentina) 5pts
= Stephane Sarrazin (France) 5pts
10 Federico Villagra (Argentina) 4pts etc
Manufacturers after round three of 12
1 Skoda 46pts
2 Peugeot 24pts
3 M-Sport 14pts
4 Ralliart 6pts
5 Subaru 5pts
IRC 2WD Drivers after round three of 12
1 Kris Princen 10pts
= Marcos Tokarski 10pts
= Rafael Tulio 10pts
4 Pierre Campana 8pts
= Luis Gius 8pts
= Pablo Pelaez 8pts
= Luis Tedesco 8pts
8 Thomas Barral 6pts
= Ulysses Bertholdo 6pts
= Alicia Reina 6pts etc
IRC 2WD Manufacturers after round three of 12
1 Peugeot 36pts
2 M-Sport 22pts
3 Abarth 19pts
4 Honda 8pts
5 Skoda 5pts
Friday 19 March
SS1: Super Special Stage Carlos Paz 1 (3.30kms): Kris Meeke
Saturday 20 March
SS2: Las Bajadas-Villa del Dique 1 (16.57kms): Juho Hanninen
SS3: Amboy-Santa Monica 1 (20.43kms): Juho Hanninen
SS4: Santa Rosa-San Agustin 1 (21.53kms): Guy Wilks
SS5: San Agustin-Villa General Belgrano 1 (16.46kms): Juho Hanninen
SS6: Las Bajadas-Villa del Dique 2 (16.57kms): Juho Hanninen
SS7: Amboy-Santa Monica 2 (20.43kms): Juho Hanninen
SS8: Santa Rosa-San Agustin 2 (21.53kms): Juho Hanninen
Sunday 21 March
SS9: La Cumbre-Agua de Oro (15.06kms): Juho Hanninen
SS10: Ascochinga-La Cumbre (22.40kms): Juho Hanninen
SS11: Valle Hermoso-Casa Grande 1 (11.34kms): Juho Hanninen
SS12: Cosquin-Villa Allende 1 (19.18kms): Juho Hanninen
SS13: Valle Hermoso-Casa Grande 2 (11.34kms): Jan Kopecky
SS14: Cosquin-Villa Allende 2 (19.18kms): Juho Hanninen
SS15: Super Special Stage Carlos Paz 2 (3.30kms): Jan Kopecky
Stage winners in 2010
Juho Hanninen: 19
Kris Meeke: 7
Sebastien Ogier: 7
Mikko Hirvonen: 3
Jan Kopecky: 2
Stephane Sarrazin: 2
Nicolas Vouilloz: 1
Guy Wilks: 1
Eurosport, Europe’s largest television channel, will show highlights of each day of the rally. Highlights will also be available at www.rally-irc.com
Monday 22 March
06:30-07:00: Day two highlights repeated (Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
08:30-09:00: Day two highlights repeated (Eurosport)
Tuesday 23 March
23:30-24:00: Magazine (Eurosport and Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
Wednesday 24 March
03:30-04:00: Day two highlights repeated (Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
09:00-09:30: Magazine repeated (Eurosport)
All times are CET