09 Feb 08
Juho Hanninen fulfilled his own lunchtime prediction of moving to the front of the Production Car standings by the end of the day - with a little help from Patrik Sandell, who planted his Peugeot in a Vargasen snow bank for two minutes.
Hanninen’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX now commands a minute lead over Jari Ketomaa ahead of the final day’s six stages. After leading the Group N category from the fourth stage yesterday, Sandell’s problem six kilometeres into SS14 dropped him to fourth. “When I spoke earlier today, I got back into the car and was a bit worried I had been too confident,” laughed Hanninen at the end of the day. “But now it looks okay. We had been putting pressure on him and taking some seconds out of him in the stages. We had no trouble this afternoon. It wasn’t always the best conditions - particularly in the stadium section of the Hagfors stage. Now we have to be really careful with the puncture and make sure we take the speed off tomorrow.”
Sandell’s overshoot cost even more time when the engine began to overheat soon after he’d been dug out of the snow. “I had to stop again,” said the depressed Swede. “We had a warning light on the dash telling me the temperature was too high. We cleared the snow from the radiator and carried on. Of course, I wanted to win here and things were looking good. It was just a shame about what happened, but I think we have shown what the car’s capable of. Now I’m very excited about the rest of the season.”
Sandell’s accident promoted Ketomaa and Martin Prokop to second and third. The Finn is a minute ahead of Prokop and promising a sensible approach to the final leg. Prokop, however, will have to press on if he’s going to keep Sandell behind on Sunday - the former leader is just 16 seconds away from the final step of the podium.
Uwe Nittel’s quiet rally continued. He said: “I knew it was going to be hard to match the local drivers on this event, so I just wanted to drive my own rally and that’s what I’m doing.” Behind him, Toshi Arai’s day ended with a puncture and a spin in sixth position.