“It’s been very hard finding the right pace and the right consistency after Tanak stopped,” said the Red Bull Skoda driver. “You can’t take risks because you can make a mistake but you can’t not push completely because you lose the rhythm. We are trying to stay focused.”
Despite his more conservative approach, Hanninen remains in the battle for top spot, one second behind Nasser Al-Attiyah in a Ford Fiesta S2000.
“I’m happy to be in the lead but the rally is still very long and the gap at the front is very close so everything is possible,” said the Qatari. “Tomorrow we go back to Tarmac and the aim is to improve on that surface as it’s not our favorite.”
Irishman Craig Breen, who has taken over Eyvind Brynildsen’s registration for this event, is a strong third overnight in his Fiesta, 24.6s behind Al-Attiyah.
Fiesta driver Martin Prokop is fourth, 3.5s adrift of Breen following a cautious run through the dust of the Les Garrigues night stage. “The conditions were very tricky, it was slippery in a lot of places and there was a lot of dust so we didn’t take any risks,” said the Czech. “It is good to be on Tarmac tomorrow.”
Bernardo Sousa has overcome early brake problems, which caused him to go off five times on stage one, to hold fifth with Hermann Gassner Jr completing the top six on his first SWRC appearance with new co-driver Timo Gottschalk. Karl Kruuda broke his car’s crossmember hitting a rock on stage one. Like Tanak Kruuda is set to restart on day two.