Hanninen spearheads the Citroen C2 challenge Following the untimely retirement of early JWRC pace-setters Kris Meeke and Glenn Patterson, the chances of seeing a Citroen Super 1600 claiming a top finish here in Wales rest squarely on the...
Hanninen spearheads the Citroen C2 challenge
Following the untimely retirement of early JWRC pace-setters Kris Meeke and Glenn Patterson, the chances of seeing a Citroen Super 1600 claiming a top finish here in Wales rest squarely on the shoulders of Finland's Juho Hanninen and his co-driver Marko Sallinen.
Kris Meeke kicked off Leg 2 of the 2006 Wales Rally GB just as he ended yesterday's leg by posting yet another fastest stage time which saw him extend his lead in the JWRC standings to more than 2 minutes after SS7. "We covered today's opener at a much slower pace than yesterday," observed Kris who was surprised to learn that he was the quickest driver over the classic Crychan test. "I haven't taken it this steadily since the start of the rally," he added. Indeed, everything seemed to be well under control, but then the Ulsterman clouted a rock on the inside of the fourth corner of the following test, putting paid to his chances not only of winning on home soil but also of securing the 2006 JWRC title. "I was a little too quick into a right-left-right sequence. The car over-steered and we hit a big stone on the inside of the second right-hander. The impact damaged the front-right drive-shaft and we were unable to repair. It's so frustrating, not only for us but also for the team which once again gave us a car that had the potential to win. Unfortunately, we have again failed to take full advantage of the Citroen C2 Super 1600's potential which has been evident since last year. I'm bitterly disappointed."
Following the retirement of the early JWRC pace-setter, attention turned to another Citroen C2 Super 1600 crew, Finland's Juho Hanninen/Marko Sallinen who are running outside of the framework of the Junior Championship. Seen as one of his country's most promising youngsters, the 25-year old's 2006 programme has essentially focused on familiarising himself with selected WRC rounds and his objective is to get as many stage kilometres under his belt as possible . Leg 1 saw him concentrate on getting a feel for the handling of his Citroen C2 but today he was able to up the pace and he frequently figured amongst the top-three Super 1600 times. "I feel more confident and the day went quite well," he commented at this evening's parc ferme. "The heavy rain, especially this afternoon, made the conditions even worse than those we encountered yesterday, so I concentrated on staying on the road. It is important for me to reach the finish. We didn't make any mistakes today, nor did we pick up any punctures, and I hope it stays that way tomorrow. There are still four long stages to come and my objective is to defend my footing on the Super 1600 podium."
The other Citroen C2 crews here in Wales whose ranks are led by Aaron Burkart/Kevin Zemanik (5th in the provisional JWRC standings) and Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek (9th in S1600, running outside of the framework of the JWRC) met differing fortunes today, while Fabien Fiandino and Sabrina De Castelli have been setting times in keeping with the potential of their Citroen C2-R2. "Despite the appalling conditions, I felt more confident with the settings we ran today and I hope it goes just as well tomorrow," said the Nice-based youngster at the end of Leg 2 which concluded with a 1.2km super-special in Cardiff's celebrated Millennium Stadium.