Hanninen Beats Kopecky To Canarias Win

by Peter Allen

Reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Juho Hanninen won the Rally Islas Canarias, beating Skoda Motorsport teammate Jan Kopecky by just 1.5 seconds.

Kopecky led at the end of the first day after taking the lead on the second stage. Thierry Neuville held an impressive second position in his Kronos-run Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg 207, ahead of Hanninen.

Neuville took the rally lead on the first stage of Saturday, but on the next test Hanninen surged past both Kopecky and Neuville and into the lead. Hanninen held onto the lead through the final two stages, beating Kopecky by just 1.5 seconds and taking his first IRC win on asphalt.

Neuville ended up in third, his performance enough to earn the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy. Freddy Loix finished fourth in the BFO Skoda, ahead of Guy Wilks. The Peugeot UK driver came out on top of a close battle during the final day with Skoda UK counterpart Andreas Mikkelsen and Peugeot France driver Bryan Bouffier. Bouffier was unable to repeat his heroics that saw him win the Monte Carlo Rally in January.

Bruno Magalhaes finished eighth for Peugeot Sport Portugal, ahead of Giandomenico Basso who finished ninth on his debut for Proton. Toni Gardemeister rounded out the top ten in his first rally driving for his own TGS Worldwide team in a Skoda.

Joan Vinyes finished 11th and claimed 2WD Cup honours in his Suzuki, while local driver Jose Barrios won the Production Cup category in his Subaru.

Hanninen's victory gives him the lead of the drivers' championship, two points ahead of Bouffier with Loix just one point further behind. The next IRC round is the Tour de Corse on 12-14 May.

Top ten positions after SS12:

Pos. Driver Team Car Time/Gap
1 Juho Hanninen Skoda Motorsport Å koda Fabia S2000  01:40:38.1
2 Jan Kopecky  Skoda Motorsport Å koda Fabia S2000  +1.5
3 Thierry Neuville Peugeot Belux Peugeot 207 S2000  +8.2
4 Freddy Loix BFO Skoda Å koda Fabia S2000  +16.7
5 Guy Wilks Peugeot UK Peugeot 207 S2000  +48.3
6 Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK Å koda Fabia S2000  +55.6
7 Bryan Bouffier Peugeot France Peugeot 207 S2000  +1:00.6
8 Bruno Magalhaes Peugeot Portugal Peugeot 207 S2000  +1:49.8
9 Giandomenico Basso Proton Motorsports Proton Satria Neo S2000  +2:37.8
10 Toni Gardemeister TGS Worldwide Å koda Fabia S2000  +2:38.2

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