Tanak began the asphalt event in style by winning the opening test in his MM Motorsport Ford Fiesta S2000, before a front-right puncture to slow him down over the final four kilometres of stage two.
His delay allowed Hanninen, in his Red Bull Skoda Fabia, to snatch the lead by 4.5s only for the Finn to suffer a puncture of his own on the very next test after he struck one of the steel poles being used to prevent drivers from taking ‘cuts’ through corners.
“I don't think that the rods in bends are the best of solutions,” said Hanninen, who is in fourth position, 2m24.5s adrift of top spot. “One of the drivers ahead of us must have displaced one of them from its position to protrude into the road. When we hit it, the tyre went flat in no time. Anyway, we still have many kilometres to go, and we will do our best to get back to the game.”
Tanak said: “Apart from the puncture we had a good run and now we have quite a comfortable lead but the rally is still very long so we have to stay focused in order to keep the car in one piece.”
Eyvind Brynildsen, who is making his return to the SWRC after missing the previous round in Germany, is second overall with new co-driver Timo Alanne. The Norwegian has adopted a cautious approach in order to secure a finish in his PS Engineering Fabia.
“We kept the car in the middle of the road to avoid punctures and other dramas,” said Brynildsen. “I haven’t driven on Tarmac for one year so I’m a bit rusty and I need some time to get used to it again but hopefully it will get better and better.”
Martin Prokop is third in his Fiesta but said he was unhappy with his performance in the morning. “We had a bad morning, it was definitely the worst morning I have had in a very long time. We chose the wrong set-up so I was completely unconfident.”
Bernardo Sousa recovered from an overshoot on stage two to hold fifth in his Fiesta with Red Bull Skoda’s Hermann Gassner Jr sixth despite a loss of brakes on stage three. French wildcard entrant Julien Maurin is seventh.
Nasser Al-Attiyah had been expected to run at the front in his Barwa World Rally Team-entered Fiesta. However, the Qatari’s challenge ended on the day’s opening test when he slid into a ditch and retired. He is due to restart under SupeRally regulations on day two.