Juho Hanninen notched up his third win of the season on the Rally Japan last weekend, the seventh and penultimate round in the 2008 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship.
Hanninen had an awful start to the event in Sapporo and finished day one down in ninth place, 46.1 seconds off the leader, Evgeniy Novikov. On day two Juho was back on form and he flew through the opening loop, regaining seven places to be second by the mid-day halt. Hanninen though was unable to make up ground on Novikov and the 18-year-old extended his lead further.
19.1 seconds split the two going into the final day and right up until the final stage the Russian look on course - now 26.8 seconds in front - until a suspension problem dropped him back and down to second.
Juho was 'surprised' at the finish to have inherited the win and admitted he was focusing more on Toshi Arai behind him than on Novikov in front. He now goes to Rally GB six points up on Andreas Aigner in the Production standings and favourite to take the crown.
"This victory is remarkable! I was concentrating on fighting Toshi for second place and only after the finish of the stage did I realise that I had won. I was told the news by the reporters, as I was not aware of Novikov's problem. It was a very tough rally, and I was happy to finish second - being first is a bonus and it was bad luck for Novikov,” said the Finn.
“I had decided before the rally that I would take it easy on Friday as day one's stages were quite tricky, and then attack on days two and three and I really enjoyed a great battle with Toshi.
“Now we go to Wales with two points extra advantage in the Championship. To be honest, I have not thought about the championship at all. It has been a good season so far and I am quite confident we can complete it."
Novikov was understandably pretty upset and in the end finished just 6.3 seconds off P1. He had one consolation though, in that he still scored his first ever career podium in the P-WRC.
"The rear right suspension broke on the last stage. I don't know why, all we did was go over a small bump - we didn't hit anything. I'm really disappointed,” he noted. “It was a really good rally otherwise and at least we have shown we have the speed. It's not as good as I wanted but it's okay."