Co-driven by Mikko Markkula, the Red Bull Skoda star knew the coveted title would be his by providing he reached the finish in Salou this afternoon following rival Ott Tanak exit on Friday’s opening test when he broke his Ford Fiesta’s suspension on a drainage culvert hidden by thick clouds of dust.
Despite not having to claim victory to secure the crown, Hanninen nevertheless took top spot after brake problems hampered overnight leader Nasser Al-Attiyah on Sunday morning. The Qatari battled on to take second with Martin Prokop third.
Ott Tanak’s restart under SupeRally regulations netted sixth place, which was enough to secure second overall in the final championship standings from Prokop.
“At one stage we were really trying and when Tanak made a mistake there was almost 400 stage kilometres to the finish,” said Hanninen. “We were just waiting and avoiding the mistakes so it was not so easy. On gravel it was difficult on Friday but then we went to Tarmac on Saturday morning I formed some sort of rhythm. With that rhythm I was able to fight with Nasser. Today he had a few problems with the brakes so from that moment we got the lead and we were able to keep it.”
Al-Attiyah, whose second place equalled his previous season best of second in Germany, said: “We lost all the brakes at the beginning of stage 13, when I touch the pedal it blocks completely. We decided to drive the stages carefully, not taking risks.”
After losing out on a podium spot when his Fiesta suffered a driveshaft failure on Saturday’s opening test, WRC Academy ace Craig Breen cemented a strong fourth overall with two stage wins on the final day.
“We made some improvements to the car last night and the stage times were good,” said Breen. “I have to be pleased with my performance here. It’s not an easy rally.”
Hermann Gassner Jr finished fifth in his Red Bull Skoda Fabia with Tanak sixth. Karl Kruuda and Albert Llovera both required SupeRally to finish in seventh and eighth respectively, with Andorran Llovera landing the prestigious Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally Award for his efforts aboard his Abarth Grande Punto.
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"We were just waiting and avoiding the mistakes so it was not so easy."