IRC: Yalta joy for record-breaker Hanninen

Mikkelsen was fastest on two stages on Saturday morning in his efforts to snatch the final podium spot from Kopecky. He closed to within 12.9s of the Czech with three stages left only to spin backwards into a small tree after touching a patch of gravel on stage 12. The impact inflicted damage to the exhaust and right-rear corner of his Skoda UK Motorsport Fabia, which he and co-driver Ola Floene repaired by attaching a ratchet strap to a lamppost to pull some flailing bodywork clear of the exhaust.

The time dropped spinning plus the loss of power caused by the damaged exhaust forced Mikkelsen to settle for fourth, which nevertheless represents his highest finish in the IRC so far this season. He also took the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy.

Further back Guy Wilks began the final day in an unenviable position. Too far behind to attack Mikkelsen following his punctures on day two and clear of the chasing pack, the Peugeot UK driver faced the difficult prospect of finding a comfortable balance between pace and caution.

He finished fifth but suggested he could have challenged for victory had it not been for the two deflations, having run as high as second. A front-right puncture on the final stage, caused by striking the concrete block holding the flying finish sign in place, completed a frustrating weekend for the Briton.

Thierry Neuville arrived in Ukraine boosted by his maiden IRC victory on the previous round in Corsica. While a high-speed off and a puncture on Friday ultimately wrecked his chances of a repeat win, he showed plenty of pace throughout the event ahead of his home round of the IRC, the Geko Ypres Rally from 23-25 June.

Skoda Fabia privateer Toni Gardemeister overcame a down-on-power engine to finish seventh for his TGS Worldwide team. The Finn had dropped a few seconds with an overshoot and stall on stage 11.

Karl Kruuda took a creditable eighth place on his first appearance in the IRC in a four-wheel drive car. The 18-year-old from Estonia suffered a puncture on Saturday's opening stage and reported his pacenotes needed to be revised to allow him to go faster on future events.

Patrik Sandell managed to avoid any of the punctures that played havoc on Friday to recover to ninth overall in his Skoda Sweden-backed entry.

With IRC 2WD Cup aces Jean-Michel Raoux and Vlad Cosma not eligible for overall IRC drivers' points, Hungarian Janos Puskadi claimed the final point in his Honda Civic Type R in 12th overall. Ralliart Mitsubishi driver Volodymyr Pechenyk took the IRC Production Cup honours on his home event (and 13th overall).

Giandomenico Basso, who was fifth after four stages, reached Friday night's service in 10th overall but didn't restart on Saturday owing to concerns that damage to his PROTON Motorsports' Satria Neo S2000's engine on day two could prove terminal if he continued. Team-mate PG Andersson stopped with oil pressure issues on Friday.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul. Peugeot 207 S2000. Prime Yalta Rally [Pic credit: IRC]
Patrik Sandell / Staffan Parmander. Skoda Fabia S2000. Prime Yalta Rally [Pic credit: IRC]
Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri - Peugeot 207 S2000. Prime Yalta Rally. [Pic credit: IRC]
Juho Hanninen / Mikko Markkula. Skoda Fabia S2000. Prime Yalta Rally. [Pic credit: IRC]
Juho Hanninen / Mikko Markkula. Skoda Fabia S2000. Prime Yalta Rally. [Pic credit: IRC]
Juho Hanninen / Mikko Markkula. Skoda Fabia S2000. Prime Yalta Rally. [Pic credit: IRC]

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