Guest driver Hänninen storms to victory on home rally
Finnish guest pairing Juho Hänninen and Mikko Markkula triumphed over the S-WRC field this weekend in their Škoda Fabia at Neste Oil Rally Finland, the sixth round of the 2010 FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship. Swedes P-G Andersson and Patrik Sandell completed a Škoda full house on the S-WRC podium, the two former J-WRC Champions having battled with one another throughout the rally.

Making his S-WRC début in a Fabia, Hänninen sat tight in second for the opening stages on Day One, the central part of a Finnish trio leading the field sandwiched between championship contender Jari Ketomaa and fellow guest driver Matti Rantanen. However, Hänninen was catapulted into the lead when early leader Ketomaa suffered a penalty of over four minutes for leaving midday service late as his team tried to repair an electrical problem. A quick and confident drive then left Hänninen untouchable, cruising home to finish over a minute ahead of the rest of the S-WRC field and ninth overall to claim 25 S-WRC points and 2 WRC points on his first rally of the season.

Having lost the lead, Ketomaa’s high hopes of closing the gap in the S-WRC standings with current leader Xevi Pons –absent in Finland - were obliterated as his rally went from bad to worse. He finished Day One in ninth, only to hit a pylon leaving parc fermé on the morning of Day Two and damage the front of his Fiesta. His Ford was fixed in time to start SS12, but the repairs could not withstand a heavy landing over a jump on the following stage and Ketomaa was forced to retire from his home rally.

Fellow countryman Rantanen benefitted from Ketomaa’s misfortune and climbed to second only to leave the road on SS13 and damage his Fabia beyond repair. The retirements of the two Finns left the way clear for Andersson and Sandell to scoop places on the podium, having fought their way up the field together over the course of the weekend. Andersson’s 18 S-WRC points also elevated him to second in the overall standings, while a tenth place overall also earned him another WRC point. Martin Prokop (CZE), Michael Kosciuszko (POL) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) were unable to touch the Scandinavians up front, while Finn Janne Tuohino was plagued by difficulties which left him disappointed with having to settle for sixth in his home rally. The final S-WRC competitor Albert Llovera (AND) retired on SS14 due to engine problems.

1st – JUHO HÄNNINEN (FIN): “The rally was great, I’m very happy to come in first. I enjoyed the stages and it is a great privilege to win in Finland on my home rally.”

2nd – P-G ANDERSSON (SWE): “You have to be happy with second place. Hänninen drove fantastically well and we didn’t have the pace this weekend. I wanted to win really, but I couldn’t catch him.”

3rd – PATRIK SANDELL (SWE): “I’m happy with what we have done, especially because we had a problem with our brakes yesterday and lost 30 seconds. We really showed that we can drive a car this weekend.”

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