Juho Hanninen (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) picks up maiden international success As in 2007, victory over the gravel stages of Rally Russia (round four of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge) went to a Flying Finn, this time in the person of...
Juho Hanninen (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) picks up maiden international success
As in 2007, victory over the gravel stages of Rally Russia (round four of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge) went to a Flying Finn, this time in the person of Juho Hanninen. The Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoorich driver outclassed all his rivals to finish with a lead of more than two minutes over compatriot Anton Alen (Abarth/BFGoodrich). The new g - Force Gravel Z4 saw BFGoodrich runners monopolise the top-eight overall.
Juho Hanninen, 27, took the time to hone his skills on the stages of his native Finland before moving on to an international programme with a participation in the 2007 Production World Rally Championship which saw him finish fifth at the wheel of his BFGoodrich-equipped Subaru.
However, as was the case with his compatriot Anton Alen twelve months ago, rallying's history books will record that it was in Russia, close to its border with Finland, that Juho Hanninen claimed his first major international success driving a Peugeot 207 running on BFGoodrich tyres.
Prior to this weekend's event, Juho Hanninen had no previous experience of either the Peugeot 207 S2000 or of the new BFGoodrich g-Force Gravel Z4 tyre. Nor had he any previous knowledge of the Rally Russia's stages, yet he still succeeded in taking control on the very first test ahead of the established IRC stars.
The Finn's late running order enabled him to benefit from clearer conditions on Thursday and he profited from that advantage to claim two further fastest times to complete the first leg on top, 21.5 seconds clear of Basso and 28.6s ahead of the Czech Republic's Jan Kopecky (Peugeot/BFGoodrich).
The longer, more difficult second day took competitors over rougher ground, but that didn't prevent Hanninen from strengthening his lead thanks to a score of three further stage wins from a possible four. Russia's 18-year old Evgeny Novikov (Subaru/BFGoodrich) and Anton Alen (Abarth/BFGoodrich) joined the Finn on Friday night's podium, but Jan Kopecky fell to 11th overall following a puncture. The last day saw the elimination of Novikov, however, which enabled Basso to join his Abarth team-mate Alen in the final top -three.
For Peugeot and BFGoodrich, it was their fourth consecutive win in the 2008 IRC, while Alen and Basso produced the factory Abarth/BFGoodrich squad's best result of the year so far by getting two Grande Punto S2000s onto the podium. Following its one-two finish on June's Ypres Rally, the Peugeot-Belux team (Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoodrich) had to settle for fourth and fifth places this weekend with Freddy Loix and Nicolas Vouilloz. Even so, Vouilloz is now equal on top of the provisional Drivers' standings with Rossetti who was not in Russia.
In three weeks' time, the IRC will revert to asphalt as competitors head for the Portuguese island of Madeira and its traditional cocktail of mountain roads and fickle weather. The 2007 visit to the Atlantic isle was dominated by Basso (Abarth/BFGoodrich) and his good run this weekend in Russia will no doubt give his morale a welcome boost ahead of the coming battle with Vouilloz, Loix and Rossetti who returns to the IRC ranks in Madeira.
Patrick Letort, Chief BFGoodrich Technician: "This weekend's rally brings the gravel phase of the 2008 IRC to an end. BFGoodrich g-Force Gravel tyres were the dominant force on every one of the three loose surface rounds contested to date, namely Turkey, Portugal and Russia. Since last March, we have worked non-stop to improve the performance of our tyres. Several of our drivers suffered from punctures in Turkey and our experience told us that Portugal promised to be very rough. In the space of just one month, we managed to provide our partners with an evolution featuring protective beading on the sidewalls which proved particularly effective. Based on that evolution, we developed a brand new tyre with a new construction for Russia: the g-Force Gravel Z4. This tyre was unanimously applauded by the BFGoodrich drivers who chose it not only for the morning loops but also for the afternoon runs despite ground temperatures of more than 30o.C. It proved particularly consistent and delivered some excellent stage times, despite the very rough conditions."
Juho Hanninen (1st, Peugeot/BFGoodrich): "I am as surprised as anyone with my victory today. After finishing fifth in Portugal in a Mitsubishi Lance, I didn't think I would be able to win my first event in a Super 2000 car. I felt very comfortable on the second day. I hope to repeat the experience. I had already competed on BFGoodrich tyres during my PWRC programme last year. The g-Force Gravel Z4 worked very well and I didn't have a single puncture."
Anton Alen (2nd, Abarth/BFGoodrich): "After the rain that fell before the start, thisyear's stages in Russia were very rough. I punctured twice on Friday afternoon. The first time was a slow puncture and the second was the result of my hitting a rock. Had it not been for there two incidents, I might have been able to challenge for victory, but Juho was extremely quick and he posted some incredibly fast times."
1, Hanninen/Markkula (Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoodrich), 2h 14m 27.0s
2, Alen/Alanne (Abarth Grande Punto S2000/BFGoodrich), +2m 11.2s
3, Basso/Dotta (Abarth Grande Punto S2000/BFGoodrich), +2m 44.2s
4, Loix/Buysmans (Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoodrich), +3m 29.4s
5, Vouilloz/Klinger (Peugeot 207 S2000/BFGoodrich), +5m 30.8s
DRIVERS: 1, Rossetti and Vouilloz (26 points). 3, Loix (16). 4, Kopecky (15). 5, Basso, Hanninen and Alen (14). Etc.
MANUFACTURERS: 1, Peugeot (69 points). 2, Abarth (33). 3, Mitsubishi (9). 4, VW (5).
Next round: Rali Vinho Madeira (August 1-2)