Juho Hanninen edges away in Ireland after slight error by Andreas Mikkelsen
Juho Hanninen's Circuit of Ireland lead is up to nine seconds after a mistake by Andreas Mikkelsen amid a colossal battle between Skoda's two Intercontinental Rally Challenge champions
After Hanninen took the lead on Friday night, Mikkelsen retaliated on Saturday's opener - where his rival confessed to being too cautious - and regained first place by 0.6 seconds.
But a big push by Hanninen on the Drumhillery stage, where Mikkelsen felt his soft tyres were the wrong choice, took the Finn back to the top by 1.6s, and when Mikkelsen then overshot a corner on Hollow, Hanninen found himself with the biggest lead anyone has enjoyed so far on the ultra-close event.
Jan Kopecky described the top two's pace as "crazy" and is now a minute behind in third in the second works Skoda.
Alastair Fisher crashed his M-Sport Ford on the first stage of the day, so fourth place now belongs to top Peugeot driver Mathieu Arzeno (Sainteloc). After his penalties for being late into service on Friday evening, Arzeno's team-mate Craig Breen is now sixth, between Skoda men Robert Barrable and Sepp Wiegand.
Seven further stages remain, split across two loops later on Saturday.
Leading positions after SS8:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Juho Hanninen Skoda 1h06m28.9s 2. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK + 9.0s 3. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 1m02.8s 4. Mathieu Arzeno Sainteloc Peugeot + 2m19.5s 5. Robert Barrable CA1 Skoda + 3m05.2s 6. Craig Breen Sainteloc Peugeot + 3m37.8s 7. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Deutschland + 3m51.0s 8. Garry Jennings Mitsubishi + 5m04.3s 9. Sam Moffett Mitsubishi + 5m16.3s 10. Donagh Kelly Mitsubishi + 5m46.1s
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