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Hanninen wins Yalta Rally

Juho Hanninen, Skoda, Yalta 2011Skoda's Juho Hanninen clinched his second Intercontinental Rally Challenge victory of the year on the Yalta Rally in Ukraine after a close battle with Bryan Bouffier.

A jump-start penalty on the second of Thursday's pair of very short opening stages had left Hanninen back in 11th starting the first full-length leg on Friday, but he swiftly fell through to second before taking the lead from PH Peugeot's Bryan Bouffier.

The gap between them then ebbed and flowed - with Hanninen pulling away on Friday afternoon, getting caught again this morning, and then re-establishing a lead on the final loop. Despite Bouffier being quickest on the concluding Uchan-Su stage, Hanninen was able to win by 11.7s.

Jan Kopecky completed the podium in the second Skoda, winning his battle with Skoda UK's Andreas Mikkelsen thanks to two stage wins this afternoon and Mikkelsen having a quick trip off the road on SS12.

Mikkelsen was one of many drivers who sustained costly punctures on Friday, when a lot of debris was being drawn onto the stages as the field passed through. Fifth-placed Guy Wilks (Peugeot UK) and seventh-placed Toni Gardemeister (TGS Skoda) were among the other puncture victims.

Early leader Thierry Neuville was another man to sustain a puncture - but the Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg driver's main issue was a high-speed spin on Friday morning that briefly left his car beached, costing him three minutes. Until then, he had looked a good bet for victory as he held Bouffier at bay. Neuville recovered to sixth, despite the later puncture.

S2000 debutant Karl Kruuda had a wide variety of adventures in his ME3 Skoda before taking eighth. Punctures and mechanical problems stymied Proton's challenge, but Giandomenico Basso did get the Satria as high as fifth.

Leading finishers:

Pos  Driver             Team/Car                  Time/Gap
 1.  Juho Hanninen      Skoda                   2h54m14.0s
 2.  Bryan Bouffier     PH Peugeot                 + 11.7s
 3.  Jan Kopecky        Skoda                      + 38.7s
 4.  Andreas Mikkelsen  Skoda UK                   + 57.3s
 5.  Guy Wilks          Peugeot UK (Kronos)      + 4m00.4s
 6.  Thierry Neuville   Peugeot Belux (Kronos)   + 5m01.5s
 7.  Toni Gardemeister  TGS Skoda                + 7m59.3s
 8.  Karl Kruuda        ME3 Skoda               + 10m01.3s
 9.  Patrik Sandell     Skoda Sweden            + 18m08.9s
10.  Jean-Michel Raoux  100% Renault            + 21m42.9s
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Hanninen leads as Bouffier closes
Hanninen hits the front in Ukraine
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Neuville takes early Yalta lead