A Hard-earned lead for Latvala
VW driver leads after a dramatic day one in Sardinia
The Finn had briefly led the rough gravel rally on the third stage and was lying second overall – only 2.9s behind his rally-leading team-mate Thierry Neuville – when he made a costly mistake 5km from the end of the fifth stage (Loelle 1).
His i20 WRC was launched into a series of violent rolls and struck trees at the side of the road before coming to rest in the Sardinian undergrowth. The car was extensively damaged and Hanninen’s rally was over.
After analysing the cause of the crash, Hanninen and co-driver Tomi Tuominen have concluded there was information missing from the pace notes they made on the pre-event recce.
“We approached a right-hand corner very fast and I lost the front, went wide and rolled many times,” Hanninen explained. “It took me by surprise but I realised after that there was a slight dip, almost like a rut, which caught me out. I should have noticed this from the recce.”
Despite his mistake, Hanninen felt he was able to take some positives from Sardinia – only his third outing of the season with the Hyundai squad.
He said: “The good thing for us to take away is that we took a stage win and led the rally. I’ve never led a WRC rally before so this is a positive. It’s just a shame that the rally ended like it did.”
Hyundai’s disappointment on SS5 was compounded by Neuville hitting problems on the same stage. He damaged the right-front suspension on his i20 WRC in the 27.3km stage and lost 23 minutes at the side of the road fixing it. That meant he lost the rally lead and dropped to 27th place overall.
Hyundai’s third car, driven by debutant Hayden Paddon, completed the opening day 11th place.