Hanninen dominates for Skoda in S-WRC
Rally Finland - Day one
Under the blazing Finnish summer sun, Juho Hanninen was not concerned. S-WRC leader Jari Ketomaa might have been a handful of seconds up on him, but as the Red Bull-backed Finn sat down for his plate of pasta, he was happy.
Ketomaa’s Fiesta was fastest on the first four stages of the event, but a big push from Hanninen elevated the Fabia S2000 to the top of the timesheets for SS5, ensuring a 1.3-second gap separated them at lunch.
Arriving at the first stage of the afternoon and the fight was over. Ketomaa had suffered an engine problem on the way into service and the team suffered penalties for a late departure from service while they traced what turned out to be an electrical issue.
Ketomaa’s challenge took a further knock three stages into the afternoon when he ripped a wheel off his Fiesta. Now nursing a half-minute lead over fellow Fabia-driving Finn Matti Rantanen, Hanninen was even more composed.
“I wasn’t so worried this morning,” said Hanninen. “I knew the pace I was driving at wasn’t super flat-out and I could see the gap to him [Ketomaa], it was not so bad. Okay, the gap is not so big to Rantanen and we have to stick with the speed. But the car is good, I am very happy with that. And the sun is shining - which is also nice!”
Rantanen, making his debut in the Skoda, was not smiling quite so wide. “I have been driving cars with only five gears,” he said. “So it’s taking me some time to get used to six. Some times on the downshifts under braking, I’m not so sure how many gears I have gone. And then this morning, we went through a couple of junctions, er, not the way we had meant to...”
P-G Andersson returned to his Skoda after an appearance with the Stobart Ford World Rally Team in Bulgaria to hold third at the end of the day. The Swede was not happy with the power from his car, but remained in touch with the leader.
Patrik Sandell made it a Fabia one-two-three-four at the end of the day in his Red Bull-backed car.
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