Juho Hanninen hangs on to Circuit of Ireland lead as Andreas Mikkelsen gains
Juho Hanninen is continuing to fend off a resurgent Andreas Mikkelsen as the Circuit of Ireland builds to a thrilling conclusion over its final loop
Although Mikkelsen fell nine seconds adrift of fellow Skoda driver Hanninen when he made a mistake on the last stage of Saturday morning's loop, after service the Norwegian retaliated immediately - winning the Redrock stage by 4.8s to immediately halve the gap, despite a wild moment near the end of the stage.
Hanninen managed to pull away by half a second on Drumhillery, but another stage win by Mikkelsen on Hollow brought the Finn's lead down to just 2.3s with four stages - two of them a street superspecial - to go on Saturday afternoon.
Jan Kopecky (Skoda) and Mathieu Arzeno (Sainteloc Peugeot) remain on course for third and fourth, while Sainteloc's Craig Breen is edging closer to CA1 Skoda driver Robert Barrable in the battle for fifth and top local honours.
Leading positions after SS11:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Juho Hanninen Skoda 1h37m20.2s 2. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK + 2.3s 3. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 1m27.8s 4. Mathieu Arzeno Sainteloc Peugeot + 3m39.1s 5. Craig Breen Sainteloc Peugeot + 4m40.0s 6. Robert Barrable CA1 Skoda + 4m43.8s 7. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Deutschland + 5m29.0s 8. Garry Jennings Mitsubishi + 7m15.8s 9. Josh Moffett Mitsubishi + 10m25.6s 10. Marty McCormack Sainteloc Citroen + 10m27.3s
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