Defending Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Juho Hanninen believes Freddy Loix has what it takes to succeed him as this year's title winner.

Hanninen heads BFO-SKODA Rally Team ace Loix in the drivers' battle by 13 points after six rounds. However with the Finn not targeting a title defence in 2011 due to other rallying commitments - his main focus is on the SWRC, where he is competing currently on Rally Finland - he has tipped the Belgian veteran to join the illustrious list of IRC champions this season.

"We saw last year that he is so strong on tarmac and he can win the rest of the tarmac events this year," said Hanninen.

"He was clever [to win in Zlin] and he knows how to get the points because of his experience.

"He's definitely one of the biggest challengers for the championship - I think he can win it - but it depends on what happens if he does not do Scotland and Cyprus [the closing rounds of the season which award bonus points]."

Loix has made four appearances in the IRC this season, winning the GEKO Ypres Rally in June and claiming podium finishes on Rallye Monte-Carlo and Tour de Corse-E.Leclerc alongside co-driver Frederic Miclotte.

Meanwhile, Hanninen has also talked up team-mate Jan Kopecky's title chances: "Jan will also be strong in the championship, we know what he can do," Hanninen continued.