Juho Hanninen became only the second ever Finnish winner of the Ypres Rally with a dominant performance on his return to the Intercontinental Rally Challenge
The 2010 series champion is only contesting a limited IRC schedule this year, but added a second win of the season to his Circuit of Ireland triumph.
Skoda driver Hanninen was able to dominate most of the event. Seven-time Ypres winner Freddy Loix closed in when Hanninen made a few mistakes in the middle of Saturday's epic 12-stage, 12-hour itinerary, but the Finn had enough speed in hand to pull away again and beat fellow IRC returnee Loix's 2C Peugeot to victory by 46.5 seconds.
Points leader and reigning champion Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda UK) had dropped back from Hanninen when he lost a minute in a ditch on Friday night, and then had to retire with damage from another trip off the road early on Saturday.
Local Skoda driver Pieter Tsjoen completed the podium, with Belgian legend Patrick Snijers fourth in the full results in a Mini but not registered for the IRC.
That meant the 'official' fourth place went to Michal Solowow, who resisted a fightback from Patrik Flodin. The former Production World Rally Championship frontrunner was making a belated start to his IRC programme in a Petter Solberg Engineering-run Ford after breaking his collarbone in a training accident two months ago, and finished fifth despite losing several minutes with a broken driveshaft on Saturday morning.
Leading finishers after SS18:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Juho Hanninen Skoda 2h36m52.7s 2. Freddy Loix 2C Peugeot + 46.5s 3. Pieter Tsjoen Wevers Skoda + 2m14.6s 4. Michal Solowow Cersanit Peugeot + 5m25.4s 5. Patrik Flodin Solberg Ford + 5m55.5s 6. Mathias Viaene Atlantic Peugeot + 9m37.8s 7. Jonas Langenakens Atlantic Peugeot + 9m55.6s 8. Andreas Aigner Stohl Subaru + 10m27.1s 9. Antonin Tlustak Tlustak Skoda + 10m38.9s 10. Bob Colsoul Colsoul Mitsubishi + 12m24.3s
The fifth Intercontinental Rally Challenge was the best yet, and it was Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen who emerged as champion from a tense five-way shootout at the season finale. Matt Beer reviews the season