Local driver Juho Hanninen scored his second victory of the season on the fifth round of the 2008 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, the Neste Oil Rally Finland last weekend.

While Hanninen set the opening pace, guest driver Juha Salo soon left his fellow P-WRC competitors in awe as he confidently took control of the P-WRC by SS3 and followed by winning most of the day's stages.

Trading stage wins with Hanninen, he increased his lead to 18 seconds before an off-road excursion 14km into SS16 on day two truncated his event.

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With his main Championship rival Andres Aigner lying so far ahead in the Championship standings - and not nominated to score points in Finland - Hanninen needed to make the most of Salo's misfortune to renew his position in the P-WRC and he protected his spot to the end to claim maximum points. He now lies 8 points adrift.

"This is a very important result. We needed these 10 points to keep our Championship hopes alive," said Hanninen. "We had a very good fight with Juha [Salo] on Friday and Saturday morning which was really enjoyable. After his mistake it was difficult to keep a rhythm without losing too much time or taking risks.

"I look forward to New Zealand now though as I like it very much so I think it's possible to score some good points there."

Patrik Flodin meanwhile took the runners-up spot, albeit a distant 2 minute 30.2 seconds off P1. He fought hard for and dominated third for the first half of the rally and on only his second P-WRC outing this season, was pushing to such an extent that by the end of the day his exhaustion was apparent. Revived for the final day, he drove carefully to hold onto silver.

"I'm really happy. It's been a perfect weekend and our speed was really close to Hanninen and Salo," said the Swede. "Yesterday, after Ketomaa went off, I slowed down a bit as I didn't feel the pressure any more. I only had one scary moment on stage two when I almost went off. But it is so nice as it was a long time ago, almost one year, since we have had a good result in WRC."

Finnish Rally Championship leader Jussi Valimaki, who was awarded a 'wild card' entry for this event, struggled to find a rhythm at the start but things soon improved. Despite missing a junction on SS9 and a broken differential on SS10, he held fifth position by the end of the first day.

Day two was difficult as Valimaki injured his ribs after an awkward landing which caused him pain on the many jumps that characterise this rally. But he kept his head together and benefitted from others misfortunes, moving up to third by SS16, where he stayed.

"It was a really difficult rally and yesterday was a terrible day with a broken rib," he noted. "This morning the doctor taped my chest so it was much better. I think this was the best result possible considering all things, and also that my last WRC rally was Finland in 2006."

Further down the order Jari Ketomaa was fourth and considering his high expectations on his home event, he had a slightly frustrating event. Second in the P-WRC standings coming into the event, he tweaked his Impreza's suspension through the first day but was unable to make a dent on the times of the lead Mitsubishis.

His inability to match the times of Salo and Hanninen left him resigned to chasing third, until disaster struck on SS16 when he rolled mid-stage. It took four minutes to regain the road but the car bodywork was so damaged it was amazing he could continue. And he did so in style, clocking a stage win before the end of the day, and another two on day three which pulled him into fourth to score a welcomed five points.

Driving for the Autotek team, Oscar Svedlund broke the rear left suspension after a heavy landing on SS3 and had problems with set-up and brakes during the first day, and he held overnight in ninth. With more trust in his car, things looked up on day two as he worked his way up to fourth, despite a scary moment in SS21 when he narrowly avoided a roll. A blinding stage time by Ketomaa early on day three saw the Finn pass Svedlund, leaving the Swede for fifth.

On his debut outing in Finland, Fumio Nutahara wanted to take it easily enough to learn the roads and the speed to approach the jumps before he started pushing too much. He had a couple of spins in SS10 which cost 20 seconds and an engine worry after the end of SS21. But he kept his head, thoroughly enjoyed his event and his sixth place finish was the best of the non-Scandinavians - always an achievement in Finland where Scandinavians rule.

"The roads are very, very nice," said Nutahara. "We had a small problem with the pace notes. It is very hard to make the notes well on these roads which have so many crests. But it's so fantastic to be flying in the car. It's been a great rally."

Jussi Tiippana was seventh driving for the Subaru Rally Team USA entry - the team behind drivers Travis Pastrana and Ken Block, who were competing in the X-Games with former P-WRC champ Niall McShea.

Tiippana made a slow start to the rally complaining he was 'driving like his grandmother' although he started to enjoy the second day more. He had a small off-road moment in SS13 losing 10 seconds and Nutahara passed him on SS22 leaving him to seventh but he succeeded in finishing problem-free, taking two points for seventh.

Evgeny Aksakov had a relatively trouble-free event although he dropped two and a half minutes on SS5 with a spin. But on his first time in Finland he took an easy approach, steadily improving, to take the last available point for eighth.

Simone Campedelli started steadily but soon picked up his pace, enjoying every stage on his first time in Finland. For most of the event he ran as the top non-Scandinavian, reaching fourth at best by SS16 and was over the moon that he won SS18. But a roll on SS19 soon pulled him down the order and the spirited Italian eventually finished in ninth.

Fabio Frisiero rounded out the top ten, while Eyvind Brynildsen and Giovanni Manfrinato were eleventh and twelfth respectively, the latter the final finisher in the PWRC.

In terms of retirees Subhan Aksa was the first out, going off the road on day 1 in SS8. Naren Kumar and Evgeniy Vertunov joined him on the sidelines in SS10 and SS11 respectively, both with engine problems, while Tapio Suominen went out in the first test on day 2 with steering issues. Juha Salo and Teemu Arminen also retired on day 2, both going off the road, the former in SS16 - as mentioned previously - and the latter in SS20.

Current P-WRC leader Andreas Aigner chose not to nominate this event but contested the event for experience. Unfortunately he went off the road on SS7, into retirement.

Aigner's Red Bull Rally Team-mate Bernardo Sousa was also entered as a privateer but a recently aggravated old shoulder injury prevented the youngster from travelling to Finland and he faces a race against time to get fit for the next P-WRC round in New Zealand in four weeks time.