HANNINEN WINS 2010 RALLY OF SCOTLAND, WILKS AWARDED COLIN MCRAE 'HERO' TROPHY Finland's Juho Hanninen produced a champion's drive to see off the opposition and win the 2010 RACMSA Rally of Scotland this afternoon (Sunday), although there was...
HANNINEN WINS 2010 RALLY OF SCOTLAND, WILKS AWARDED COLIN MCRAE 'HERO' TROPHY
Finland's Juho Hanninen produced a champion's drive to see off the opposition and win the 2010 RACMSA Rally of Scotland this afternoon (Sunday), although there was drama further behind on the final day of the event.
Hanninen took over first position on yesterday's stages when British hopes, Peugeot's Kris Meeke and his own Skoda team-mate Guy Wilks, hit problems having taken turns in the lead. From there the Finnish ace was never headed, although he had to work hard to keep Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen at bay on today's closing four stages.
Meeke, who lost more time today with a puncture, still took third position meaning a podium on his last outing for Peugeot. Furthermore, the result has guaranteed him third in the final 2010 IRC points standings.
In the end, Hanninen's winning margin over Ford driver Mikkelsen was just 25.5s after 200km of competitive timed stages that started on Friday night at Scone Palace before moving into the spectacular forests of Perthshire and Stirlingshire over the weekend. In total, the event route amounted to more than 800km as it toured around the stunning Scottish countryside and was also broadcast live to millions of households around the world on leading sports TV channel Eurosport.
Hanninen's victory, his third of the season, was the perfect way to celebrate having been recently crowned the 2010 IRC Champion. Having sprayed the victory champagne at Stirling Castle's Ceremonial Finish, the 29-year-old commented: "Even with Guy and Kris's problems yesterday, I knew the rally was far from over - Andreas was driving very well and staying close behind. But on the penultimate stage today I decided to attack. I knew we still had to go through the Loch Ard stage again at the end which is very long and can cause some problems - I wanted some breathing space so I could just take it a little bit easier and it worked out. I'm very happy with this result because this is a fantastic rally."
Mikkelsen, just 21, added: "Going into today I really wanted to keep up a certain speed so Juho couldn't go on cruise mode. But then he put in a really fast time on the penultimate stage and the gap was out to 20 seconds. Then I knew really I had no chance unless something really strange happened. But this is still a very big result for me and I've really enjoyed driving these stages - very fast with a lot of flat out sections over the crests and when you get those right it's a very special feeling."
Northern Irishman Meeke said: "The rally sums up our season. We've been able to punch in the times but we've had a few slip-ups along the way and it happened again here in Scotland when we were in a strong position. We went at it from the beginning and got up to a 20 second lead but then the problems started. Third place and some silverware is still something. I must say that the stages have been in incredible condition. From a driving point of view, this is the best rally in the championship."
Although Wilks was forced to retire from the event yesterday, he - along with Scottish hero Alister McRae - returned to action today under 'Superally' rules so as to at least put on a show for the public. And nor did he disappoint, the 2009 winner setting the pace on both runs through the fearsome 30km Loch Ard stage with some sensational driving and demonstrating what might have been had he enjoyed a trouble-free rally. Fittingly, his spirited performance earned him the event's 'Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy' - among the judges who voted for him was the late rallying legend McRae's father Jimmy, himself a former great of the sport.
Meanwhile, the event's exceptionally high rate of attrition continued today. Belgium's Thierry Neuville, young Welsh star Tom Cave and Scotland's Euan Thorburn all came within touching distance of fourth position outright but instead would end their respective rallies with crashes in Loch Ard. Fourth then looked to be comfortably going the way of Northern Irishman Jonathan Greer but on the second run through Loch Ard he stopped when his car's suspension broke, gifting the spot to recently-crowned Scottish Rally Champion David Bogie. It meant the Dumfries driver achieved his pre-event ambition of finishing as the highest-placed competitor in 'showroom standard' Group N machinery but it was also unexpected as he'd started the day back in ninth after a puncture on yesterday's closing stage had lost him more than five minutes.