But a mistake barely 500 metres from the start of Saturday’s first stage has forced his retirement in Greece and elevated Hanninen into a commanding lead.
Wrc.com caught up with the dejected Estonian in the service park in Loutraki to find out what went wrong.
“I was too fast for this corner. It was quite loose and it just went down from the road and we got some damage to the car. We managed to continue and made it to the end of the stage but there was too much damage to carry on so we decided to stop. It was a left corner, just the second corner of the stage. I was just a little bit too fast.”
How many times did you roll?
“Maybe once or a little bit more. It wasn’t too big accident but big enough. It was a very long fourth gear corner and the outside dropped down.”
It took you a long time to complete the stage. Why?
“We ended up on our wheels but the gearbox cooler was damaged so we did some repairs to carry on.”
What caused you to ultimately stop and retire from today?
“The pipe which goes from the air filter to the engine was broken and we were getting too much dust into the engine. The engine was okay but if you get more dust in then for sure it will be damaged quite soon.”
What does this do for your championship chances?
“I don’t know, there’s nothing much to feel at the moment. We just find out what we can do with the SupeRally and let’s see. I think there is nothing good coming because it’s not a very long championship. If we lose so many points in one rally then it’s finished for us.”
How disappointed are you?
“Last year it was Sundays that was the problem, this year it’s the second days. It doesn’t look good.”
Do you think you could have won without this problem?
“The feeling was quite okay and the pace was good yesterday. I expected it could be possible but now we don’t know.”
Is the focus now on Neste Oil Rally Finland?
“Finland has been quite good for us but the first thing is to prepare the car again, which means more work for me because I have to rebuild the car but that’s how it is. We had planned to do Rally Estonia before but I think it’s getting too late now because of the damage.”