Second IRC victory of the season for flying Finn
Crash for Meeke hits hopes of title defence
Juho Hanninen has strengthened his grip on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge drivers‘ title with his second victory of the season on Rally d’Italia-Sardegna today (Sunday). Driving a factory Skoda Motorsport-run Fabia, the Finn took a slender lead on the rally’s ninth stage and pulled clear when Kris Meeke, his closest pursuer, crashed heavily on stage 10. The accident was captured live on Eurosport, which covered four stages of the sun-coated gravel event as they happened.
Hanninen’s win means he has finished on the podium on all five rounds of the IRC so far this season and is now 11 points to the good in the battle for the coveted drivers‘ accolade. With team-mate Jan Kopecky taking third behind Peugeot driver Paolo Andreucci, Skoda now tops the manufacturers‘ table by 34 points.
Andreucci started Sunday’s six stages 7.4s clear of fellow Peugeot runner Meeke, but lost more than 20 seconds with a sluggish run through the first Coiluna stage after opting to run a soft suspension set-up on his Peugeot Sport Italia 207, which resulted in a handling imbalance. After dropping to third, Andreucci moved to second when Meeke crashed. However, he then had to stave off Kopecky’s advances over the final two runs. He prevailed by 2.6s after setting the fastest time on the last Monte Olia run.
Kopecky had been playing catch up after a moment on stage three when he inflicted sizable damage to his Fabia’s front-right corner striking a rock, which necessitated a rapid overhaul in service by his mechanics.
Meeke was 3.6s behind Hanninen when he understeered off the road on a sweeping left-hand bend. His Peugeot UK 207 ended up on its side and would go no further. It was a disappointing end to an impressive drive by the defending IRC champion, who claimed two stage wins during the course of the event.
Thierry Neuville secured a notable fourth overall in his Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg 207 on his first gravel event in a four-wheel drive car. It was also the first time the 21-year-old has finished an IRC round in three attempts having crashed out on his last two outings.
P-G Andersson had fought his way up to seventh place only for a transmission failure to ground his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X two kilometres from the end of stage 10 when he was closing on sixth-placed Teemu Arminen for the honour of finishing as the leading driver in a conventional Group N car.
Arminen admitted to adopting a more cautious approach on Sunday in order to secure a finish in the Italian Gravel Rally Trophy, which rewarded double points in Sardinia. The Finn’s conservatism in his Subaru Impreza ultimately let in Bruno Magalhaes for fifth overall, while Arminen clinched the Italian Gravel title with two rounds remaining when Mauro Trentin retired on the last stage.
Driving for Peugeot Sport Portugal, Magalhaes incurred 2m30s of time penalties for his late departure from midday service in Simaxis on Saturday while his mechanics rectified a major brake problem. He faced the prospect of carving through the loose surface gravel on day two by virtue of starting first on the road but drove without error to battle back to fifth place and maintain his 100 per cent scoring record.
Luigi Ricci recovered from a handful of punctures to claim seventh in his Impreza with Daniele Batistini landing the final IRC drivers‘ championship point in eighth overall.
Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen, 20, restarted on Sunday after rolling into retirement on Saturday’s first stage and set a succession of top five times in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta on his first of seven planned IRC appearances.
Burcu Cetinkaya also returned to action on Sunday following her retirement on Saturday when a wheel worked loose. The 29-year-old Peugeot Sport Turkey driver used the leg to gain more experience of her 207 S2000 and its Yokohama tyres.
Although his 207 was restored to full working order following his off on stage three on Saturday, Saudi Arabian Yazeed Al Rajhi elected not to take the restart. Sebastien Ogier failed to go beyond Saturday’s first stage when his Peugeot’s engine overheated.
Briton Harry Hunt secured the IRC 2WD Cup laurels on his return to the series for the first time since Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo in January. Driving a Ford Fiesta R2, Hunt had trailed Estonian Kaspar Koitla but moved ahead when the Honda Civic Type R driver rolled on stage eight while leading comfortably. Colin R Smith made it a British one-two in his Civic, despite spending more than six minutes stuck on a bank on Saturday.
Juho Hanninen (Finland), Skoda Fabia S2000, first overall: "It’s gone very well for me. I’ve never had to really go on full attack on this rally, which was a good thing because it would have been hard to find more pace on these difficult stages. There have been no mistakes all weekend and it’s a very good result for the championship. I am not so confident for Tarmac so to win here is important for the rest of the season."
Paolo Andreucci (Italy), Peugeot 207 S2000, second overall: "I did not expect this result so for that reason I am very happy. I had to drive very fast on that last stage but it was a fantastic fight. We did not have such a good start today but we improved. The car and my Pirelli tyres were very good."
Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic), Skoda Fabia S2000, third overall: "I am pleased with this result for me and for Skoda. It was a good battle with Andreucci but I am not disappointed to have lost to him because he drove very well. If anything I am disappointed with myself for the mistake on Saturday."
TOP TEN IRC POSITIONS AFTER LEG TWO
1 Juho Hanninen/Mikko Markkula (Skoda Fabia S2000) 2h31m28.6s
2 Paolo Andreucci/Anna Andreucci (Peugeot 207 S2000) +35.6s
3 Jan Kopecky/Petr Stary (Skoda Fabia S2000) +38.2s
4 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Klinger (Peugeot 207 S2000) +5m58.6s
5 Bruno Magalhaes/Carlos Magalhaes (Peugeot 207 S2000) +9m55.8s
6 Teemu Arminen/Tuomo Nikkola (Subaru Impreza WRX) +10m12.3s
7 Luigi Ricci/Maurizio Barone (Subaru Impreza WRX) +11m33.4s
8 Daniele Batistini/Carlo Pisano (Peugeot 207 S2000) +11m58.1s
9 Filippo Bordignon/Justin Bardini (Subaru Impreza WRX) +19m56.2s
10 Gianluca Linari/Andrea Cecchi (Subaru Impreza WRX) +21m07.0s
Leading IRC 2WD Cup finishers: Harry Hunt/Sebastian Marshall (Ford Fiesta R2)
Drivers after round five of 12
1 Juho Hanninen (Finland) 42pts
2 Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic) 31pts
3 Guy Wilks (United Kingdom) 25pts
4 Bruno Magalhaes (Portugal) 17pts
5 Kris Meeke (United Kingdom) 15pts
6 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) 10pts
7 Paolo Andreucci (Italy) 8pts
8 Nicolas Vouilloz (France) 6pts
9 Thierry Neuville (Belgium) 5pts
= Gabriel Pozzo (Argentina) 5pts
= Stephane Sarrazin (France) 5pts etc
Manufacturers after round five of 12
1 Skoda 80pts
2 Peugeot 46pts
3 M-Sport 15pts
4 Subaru 10pts
5 Ralliart 8pts
IRC 2WD Drivers after round five of 12
1 Harry Hunt 10pts
= Yeray Lemes 10pts
= Kris Princen 10pts
= Marcos Tokarski 10pts
= Rafael Tulio 10pts
5 Pierre Campana 8pts
= Enrique Cruz 8pts
= Luis Gius 8pts
= Pablo Pelaez 8pts
= Colin R Smith 8pts
= Luis Tedesco 8pts
IRC 2WD Manufacturers after round five of 12
1 M-Sport 50pts
2 Peugeot 36pts
3 Abarth 19pts
4 Honda 16pts
5 Skoda 5pts
Jan Kopecky: SS2
Paolo Andreucci: SS3 and SS6-7
Kris Meeke: SS4-5 and SS8
Juho Hanninen: SS9-13
Saturday 5 June
SS2: Monte Grighine 1 (28.66kms): Jan Kopecky
SS3: Gonnosno 1 (14.53kms): Paolo Andreucci
SS4: Monte Grighine 2 (28.66kms): Kris Meeke
SS5: Gonnosno 2 (14.53kms): Jan Kopecky
SS6: Monte Lerno 1 (11.89kms): Paolo Andreucci
SS7: Monte Lerno 2 (11.89kms): Paolo Andreucci
Sunday 6 June
SS8: Coiluna 1 (25.97kms): Kris Meeke
SS9: Terranova 1 (13.18kms): Jan Kopecky
SS10: Coiluna 2 (25.97kms): Juho Hanninen
SS11: Monte Olia 1 (14.12kms): Paolo Andreucci
SS12: Terranova 2 (13.18kms): Juho Hanninen
SS13: Monte Olia 2 (14.12kms): Paolo Andreucci
Rally wins in 2010 (drivers)
Rally wins in 2010 (manufacturers)
Stage wins in 2010 (drivers)
Juho Hanninen: 22
Kris Meeke: 18
Jan Kopecky: 9
Sebastien Ogier: 7
Paolo Andreucci: 5
Mikko Hirvonen: 3
Stephane Sarrazin: 2
Nicolas Vouilloz: 1
Guy Wilks: 1
Stage wins in 2010 (manufacturers)
Eurosport, Europe’s largest television sports channel, will show coverage from Rally d’Italia-Sardegna over the next few days. Highlights will also be available at www.rally-irc.com.
Monday 7 June
20:00-21:00: Live Sunday stage repeated, Eurosport Asia-Pacific
Tuesday 8 June
23:30-24:00: Rally review, Eurosport and Eurosport Asia-Pacific
Wednesday 9 June
12:00-12:30: Rally review, Eurosport2
Saturday 12 June
09:00-09:30: Rally review, Eurosport2