Crash.Net WRC News
IRC: Hanninen takes dominant win in Argentina
22 March 2010
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 on 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.
"I'm very happy but a little bit surprised how good everything has been for me on this rally," said Hanninen. "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."
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 meanwhile 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.
"We've had a fantastic two rallies in South America with two second places and Skoda UK Motorsport has done a magnificent job," said Wilks. "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."
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.
"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," noted Kopecky.
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.
The 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge season now continues with Rally Islas Canarias 'Trofeo El Corte Ingles', which runs from 29-April-1 May. Rally Argentina – Top 10 positions after leg 2:
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 IRC drivers' positions (after round 3 of 12):
1. Juho Hanninen
2. Guy Wilks
3. Jan Kopecky
4. Kris Meeke
= Mikko Hirvonen
6. Bruno Magalhaes
7. Nicolas Vouilloz
8. Gabriel Pozzo
= Stephane Sarrazin
10. Federico Villagra
4pts etc IRC Manufacturers positions (after round 3 of 12):