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.
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.