The Finn started day two trailing Ott Tanak by almost 30 seconds but moved in front when the Estonian rolled on the day’s first stage and retired.
Bernardo Sousa is second with Tanak’s MM Motorsport team-mate Frigyes Turan third in the overall standings after 13 demanding gravel stages.
“It has not been easy today because when Tanak stopped it was difficult to keep a good rhythm and not make any stupid mistakes,” said Red Bull Skoda driver Hanninen. “I actually had two big moments of my own on that first stage and then we had a problem with the powersteering on the road section after stage nine. We also had some problems with the suspension in the afternoon. This is such a tough rally.”
Sousa picked up a rear-left puncture on stage seven and survived a moment through a ditch on stage 12 in his Fiesta S2000 to maintain his push for a podium finish. “The priority was to finish the day,” said the Madeira-based driver. “It has been tricky because the conditions have been very rough but I have survived.”
However, there was a late scare for Sousa when he reached the end of the day’s final stage in front-wheel-drive only. “I started the stage but something broke,” he said. “Let’s see if it’s something fixable or not.”
Behind third-placed Hungarian Turan, who drove without fault in his Fiesta, Hermann Gassner Jr is fourth after his Red Bull Skoda was slowed by a broken driveshaft on stage eight. “The morning was not so good for me with the driveshaft problem but we had no problems in the afternoon,” said the German driver, who like Turan is contesting the Acropolis Rally for the first time.
Czech Martin Prokop enjoyed a relatively trouble-free day following his delays with a broken differential on Friday. He holds fifth overnight in his Fiesta, one place ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah.
The Qatari had another eventful day, nudging a tree on stage seven, overshooting a junction on stage eight before being slowed on stage nine when a suspension arm bolt worked loose on his Fiesta.
Broken suspension accounted for the luckless Eyvind Brynildsen on stage 11, while Karl Kruuda stopped with a similar failure earlier in the day. Powersteering failure forced Abarth Grande Punto driver Albert Llovera’s exit on stage seven.
While Hanninen will head to the overnight halt in Loutraki firmly in contention for his first SWRC victory of 2011, Tanak will have to reflect on what might have been following his stage seven exit.
“I expected that victory could be possible but now I am very disappointed,” said Tanak, who will not restart on Sunday owing to the damage sustained when he left the road 500 metres from the start of stage seven. “This is not a very long championship. It could be finished for us.”