Juho Hänninen has become the most successful driver in the history of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) after winning the Prime Yalta Rally in Ukraine.
Driving a Škoda Motorsport Fabia Super 2000, the Finn’s triumph moves him ahead of Freddy Loix with seven wins having previously been tied with the Belgian on six.
Hänninen’s maximum score puts him back on top of the IRC drivers’ standings with Škoda edging ahead of Peugeot in the race for the prestigious IRC manufacturers’ award.
Hänninen started Saturday’s final six stages leading Bryan Bouffier by 8.2-seconds. He appeared to have gained the edge over his rival by going quicker than the Frenchman through stage nine only for Bouffier to hit back on the next two runs to the extent they were separated by 5.1-seconds at the midmorning service. However, a charging display by Hänninen on stage 12 proved the difference. Although Bouffier went fastest of all on the final stage, it wasn’t enough to prevent Hänninen from claiming his second win of the season.
Bouffier’s capture of second was the perfect response to his final-stage crash on the previous round in Corsica and fires the Peugeot France 207 driver back into title contention.
Jan Kopecký finished third in front of Andreas Mikkelsen, who had to make late roadside repairs to his Skoda after spinning backwards into a small tree after touching a patch of gravel. The impact inflicted damage to the exhaust and right-rear corner of his Fabia but he repaired the car by attaching a ratchet strap to a lamppost to pull some flailing bodywork clear of the exhaust.
Guy Wilks finished fifth but was after a far better result. After being delayed by two punctures during the event, he suffered another deflation on the final stage, caused by striking the concrete block holding the flying finish sign!
Thierry Neuville arrived in Ukraine boosted by his maiden IRC victory on the previous round in Corsica. While a high-speed off and a puncture on Friday ultimately wrecked his chances of a repeat win, he showed plenty of pace throughout the event ahead of his home round of the IRC, the Geko Ypres Rally from 23-25 June.
Giandomenico Basso, who was fifth after four stages, reached Friday night’s service in 10th overall but didn’t restart on Saturday owing to concerns that damage to his Proton Motorsports’ Satria Neo S2000’s engine on day two could prove terminal if he continued. Team-mate PG Andersson stopped with oil pressure issues on Friday.
Final Results : Prime Yalta Rally – Ukraine
|1||Juho Hänninen||Škoda||Fabia S2000||2:54:04.0|
|2||Bryan Bouffier||Peugeot||207 S2000||0:00:11.7|
|3||Jan Kopecký||Škoda||Fabia S2000||0:00:38.7|
|4||Andreas Mikkelsen||Škoda||Fabia S2000||0:00:57.3|
|5||Guy Wilks||Peugeot||207 S2000||0:04:04.0|
|6||Thierry Neuville||Peugeot||207 S2000||0:05:01.5|
|7||Toni Gardemeister||Škoda||Fabia S2000||0:07:59.3|
|8||Karl Kruuda||Škoda||Fabia S2000||0:10:01.3|
|9||Patrik Sandell||Škoda||Fabia S2000||0:18:08.9|
|1||Juho Hänninen||Škoda||Fabia S2000||58|
|2||Jan Kopecký||Škoda||Fabia S2000||55|
|3||Bryan Bouffier||Peugeot||207 S2000||49|
|4||Thierry Neuville||Peugeot||207 S2000||48|
|5||Freddy Loix||Škoda||Fabia S2000||45|
|6||Guy Wilks||Peugeot||207 S2000||35|
|7||Andreas Mikkelsen||Škoda||Fabia S2000||28|
|8||Bruno Magalhães||Peugeot||207 S2000||14|
|9||Toni Gardemeister||Škoda||Fabia S2000||12|
|9||Piere Campana||Peugeot||207 S2000||12|
|9||Stéphane Sarrazin||Peugeot||207 S2000||12|
|6||Proton||Satria Neo S2000||16|
|6||Mitsubishi||Lancer Evo X||16|