Juho Hänninen has claimed his maiden victory on Barum Czech Rally Zlín.
The former Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion was leading comfortably after 14 stages when organisers stopped the event ahead of the final test following an accident on stage 13.
Miroslav Regner, the event clerk of the course, confirmed that a Czech male spectator had died and a Hungarian male spectator had suffered non-life threatening injuries and was being treated in hospital. The crew of the car, Václav Kopáček and Tomáš Singer, were not injured. An investigation has been launched. IRC promoter Eurosport Events joins the rally organisers in extending its condolences to the family of the deceased.
In terms of the outcome of the rally, Hänninen, from Finland, had been in a close fight with ŠKODA Motorsport team-mate Jan Kopecký starting the final day but edged 16.2s clear when he beat Kopecký by more than 10s following a flat-out charge on stage 12, Maják, shown live on Eurosport and free-to-air Czech TV. But any hopes Kopecký had of fighting back on the next run, Halenkovice, ended when his Fabia Super 2000’s engine failed after a handful of kilometres of the 21.40-kilometre test, which was subsequently neutralised following Kopáček’s accident.
“I really was pushing that I can promise,” said Hänninen, whose tally of 11 IRC wins alongside navigator Mikko Markkula is more than any other driver has managed in the six-year history of the series. “I don’t know what happened to Jan but only a few kilometres from the stage start he was at the side of the road and it looks like it was something technical. It was not easy then to find the rhythm after being in a big fight for the last two days.”
Defending IRC champion Andreas Mikkelsen was in third overall when a double puncture on the day’s first stage dropped him to 10th. He was in eighth when the rally was stopped. “At a junction we went a little bit extra wide and hit a kerb,” said the ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver. “We stopped to change a puncture, but we didn’t realise we had two punctures and had to stop again – that’s why we lost so much time. After that we had to be really careful and not take any cuts, because if we had another puncture that would be the end of our rally. It’s been a difficult weekend.”
Roman Kresta finished second following a close fight with fellow Czech and ŠKODA privateer Tomáš Kostka, who led after the Friday night’s opening special. After overcoming powersteering problems on day one Kresta’s team-mate Jaromír Tarabus finished fourth after moving clear of Robert Barrable who impressed in fifth place for ŠKODA Ireland. Estonian teenager Karl Kruuda completed the top six.
Patrik Flodin finished 15th for PS Engineering after a troubled rally. A gearbox change, which handed him a substantial time penalty on Sunday, compounded a frustrating weekend for the rapid Swede in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000. Michał Sołowow was the leading Peugeot 207 S2000 finisher in ninth, one place ahead of ŠKODA Auto Deutschland’s Sepp Wiegand, who was delayed when he went off the road on the opening day.
Despite failing to finish after crashing on stage seven, Jarkko Nikara was handed the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy for a sequence of impressive stage times in his near-standard Impreza, including the third-fastest time on stage five.
IRC Production Cup
Andreas Aigner made it three wins out of four starts in the IRC Production Cup, which he led from stage five. Co-driven by fellow Austrian Ilka Minor, Aigner drove without error to finish an impressive seventh overall in his Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 STI. Toshi Arai, in a Tommi Mäkinen Racing Impreza, finished second with Czech Jaroslav Orsák fighting back from a puncture on Saturday afternoon to take third. “Ilka has been making the perfect job, the car is perfect so no problems,” said Aigner afterwards.
IRC 2WD Cup
Having led the IRC 2WD Cup for the first 10 stages, Robert Consani was eyeing his second victory of the season when an engine fault halted his Renault Mégane on Sunday morning, handing victory to local hero Jan Černý with Josef Peták second in a Renault Clio R3. Consani’s retirement means Harry Hunt’s 26-point title advantage remains in tact. The Briton was not competing in Zlín. Honda’s Martin Kangur retired from damaged front-left suspension following an accident on stage four.
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