Hanninen started the final day of the Acropolis Rally leading his class by more than four minutes after close rival Ott Tanak rolled his Ford Fiesta out of first place on Saturday’s first test. After an error-free performance alongside co-driver Mikko Markkula, Hanninen was able to celebrate a dominant win over Portugal’s Bernardo Sousa and Hungarian Frigyes Turan.
“It’s big thanks to the team because the car has been working very well on what is a very, very rough rally with lots of hard stages,” said Hanninen. “We made mistakes at all weekend and had a clean run. The 25 points are more than welcome and I can look forward to my home rally although I know it won’t be easy.”
Despite his commanding lead Hanninen admitted it wasn’t easy to hold on to top spot in Greece. “It’s difficult to stay focussed when you have a big lead and it’s more fun when you are fighting for position. But we stayed concentrated and brought the car home in one piece.”
Following his scare on Saturday’s night stage when his Fiesta was slowed by a rear-left driveshaft failure after three corners, Sousa survived Sunday’s five punishing stages to land the runner-up spot and move into second place in the drivers’ standings. “The plan was to be on the podium and it has worked,” said the Madeira-born driver. “It has been the perfect rally.”
Like winner Hanninen, third-placed Hungarian Turan also paid tribute to his team, MM Motorsport. “The car has been brilliant all rally and one of my big dreams has come true,” he said. “I have to say thanks a lot to my team and to the fans.”
Hanninen’s team-mate Hermann Gassner took fourth in his Fabia with Martin Prokop overcoming an overheating engine in his Fiesta to claim fifth. The Czech started the event leading the championship but a broken differential on day one wrecked his bid and dropped him to third in the overall classification.
“After the problems we have had on this rally it was very good to finish like this, get some good points and show some good speed,” said Prokop.
Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah was also hampered by mechanical glitches on day one in his Fiesta, which forced him to restart under SupeRally regulations on Saturday. He finished sixth.
Eyvind Brynildsen reached the finish of the Power Stage without the front bumper on his Skoda, which was torn off through a water splash on stage 17. But with an overheating engine slowing his Fabia over the closing two stages the missing bodywork was the least of the Norwegian’s worries.
Skoda driver Karl Kruuda and Abarth Grande Punto exponent Albert Llovera returned under SupeRally regulations on day three to finish eighth and ninth respectively.
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“It’s big thanks to the team because the car has been working very well on what is a very, very rough rally with lots of hard stages”