After only five stages of competition, the rally lead is now seemingly a two-horse race between Juho Hanninen (Skoda Fabia S2000) and Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda Fabia S2000).
In SS3, Mikkelsen made a slight driver error at a junction that cost him a few seconds. With his advantage just 5.5 seconds over Hanninen at the start of the stage, the Finn Hanninen attacked to close to 2.8 seconds.
Jan Kopecky (Skoda Fabia S2000) dropped off the lead pace, but was comfortably ahead of fourth placed Mathieu Arzeno (Peugeot 207 S2000). Local ace Craig Breen (team-mate to Arzeno in a Peugeot 207 S2000)’s car suffered a failed fuel pump and was penalized 01 minute 30 seconds for lateness. This dropped the young star from fourth to ninth, over 02 minutes behind the leader…
The slippery conditions in the opening loop were made more treacherous when heavy rain fell on SS4 and SS5. Crews all changed tyre compounds and changed their suspension set-ups, but the focus remained fixed on the two charging Skodas at the head of the field.
Mikkelsen lost his lead to Hanninen in SS4, with the Finn opening a slender gap of 0.6 seconds. Arzeno was overtaken by Alistair Fisher, the only M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 crew in the event. Breen jumped from ninth to seventh overall, and impressing all is Robert Barrable (Skoda Fabia S2000) in seventh position overall.
The rain continued unabated in SS5 and the stage was cancelled by the rally’s organisers after earlier time delays in the previous stages.
IRC’s Circuit of Ireland action continues on Saturday morning at 10am CET.
Overall Classification after SS5:
01) J. Hanninen (Skoda) – 34m 55.7s
02) A. Mikkelsen (SKoda) + 0.6s
03) J. Kopecky (Skoda) + 28.2s
04) A. Fisher (Ford) + 48.4s
05) M. Arzeno (Peugeot) + 01m 02.4s
06) R. Barrable (Skoda) + 01m 18.5s
07) C. Breen (Peugeot) + 02m 27.0s
08) S. Wiegand (Skoda) + 02m 34.4s
09) G. Jennings (Mitsubishi) + 02m 44.0s
10) S. Moffett (Mitsubishi) + 02m 53.1s