8 de abril de 2012

Juho Hanninen takes Circuit of Ireland victory

Juho Hanninen clinched his first victory in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge since Azores in July 2011 after Andreas Mikkelsen made a late mistake on the Circuit of Ireland.

The result also made Hanninen only the second ever non-British/Irish victor of the famous event, which was included on the IRC schedule for the first time this year, following in the footsteps of 1979 victor Pentti Airikkala.

Hanninen and Mikkelsen had been locked in battle throughout the weekend, regularly swapping the lead.

A small error by Mikkelsen on Saturday morning saw 2010 series champion Hanninen pull nine seconds clear of his successor. Mikkelsen then charged back, but after getting to within 2.3s of Hanninen going into the final loop, Mikkelsen made a mistake on the Lisburn street stage - hitting one of the bale barriers and losing just over 40s. After that, Mikkelsen conceded defeat and settled for second, allowing Hanninen to take it steady through the wet final stages.

Saturday's drama marked the fourth time in as many IRC asphalt events that Mikkelsen had seen a likely maiden win on the surface slip away at the last gasp, following on from his Mecsek 2011 crash, late Sanremo defeat by Thierry Neuville, and misfire in the Canary Islands last month.

Jan Kopecky had no answer to fellow Skoda drivers Hanninen and Mikkelsen's pace and was a distant third.

Sainteloc's Peugeot IRC programme started with fourth and fifth for Mathieu Arzeno and Craig Breen, the latter delayed by 1m30s of penalties on Friday night following a road section fuel pump failure that made him late into service. Alastair Fisher had been leading them both until crashing his Ford on Saturday's first stage.

Local driver Robert Barrable finished sixth, while a puncture on Friday limited fellow Skoda entrant Sepp Wiegand to seventh.

Leading finishers:

Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Juho Hanninen Skoda 1h58m21.8s
2. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK + 44.2s
3. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 1m39.5s
4. Mathieu Arzeno Sainteloc Peugeot + 4m01.6s
5. Craig Breen Sainteloc Peugeot + 4m53.8s
6. Robert Barrable CA1 Skoda + 5m14.5s
7. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Deutschland + 6m15.9s
8. Garry Jennings Mitsubishi + 8m27.9s
9. Donagh Kelly Mitsubishi + 9m11.4s
10. Sam Moffett Mitsubishi + 9m16.0s

Fonte: Autosport

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