Rally Argentina was dominated by Škoda cars. Juho Hänninen crowned his excellent performance with a convincing victory, second was Guy Wilks (Škoda UK Motorsport team) and third place was occupied by Jan Kopecký.
For the first time in their history, Škodas therefore celebrated a ‘triple’ and Juho Hänninen leads the overall drivers’ standings in the IRC championships with a five-point advantage over Wilks, whereas Kopecký has moved into third place thanks to his result in Argentina. Thanks to its full set of points, the Škoda brand has also strengthened its lead in the manufacturers’ standings, in front of Peugeot, second, and Ford, third.
The demanding soft gravel rally was divided into three days; drivers underwent 15 special stages with a total length of 231 km. Friday’s 3.3km long super special stage, which was run on a city circuit, was won by Peugeot driver and last year’s winner of the IRC series Kris Meeke in front of Guy Wilks, Hänninen and Kopecký were fourth and fifth with the same time and a loss of 2.9 seconds on the winner. As was shown, however, it was the first and last win by a make other than Škoda.
Saturday’s racing, which was characterised by an extremely fast and hard surface, was started in grand style by Hänninen, he won the first morning stage, went to first place in the overall standings and by the end of the race had increased his lead over all his competitors. Of the seven stages on Saturday, Hänninen won six and was only a second behind Wilks in the seventh. Ranking after Saturday – Hänninen, Wilks, Meeke, Kopecký.
On Sunday the drivers had a different character of track, markedly more technical, with lower speed averages and a stony and muddy surface. Juho Hänninen and co-driver Mikko Markkula put on a famous performance, winning five of Sunday’s seven stages and coming first in a total of 11 stages! Guy Wilks and Philip Pugh came second and safely maintained second place. Jan Kopecký and co-driver Petr Starý were constantly getting faster and moved up to podium finish thanks to the withdrawal of one of the race’s favourites, Kris Meek, due to a technical defect in the penultimate stage.
Michal Hrabánek, head of the Škoda Motorsport, said of the successful result: ‘The excellent result is a product of the thorough preparation for both South American races. Victory in an IRC race is always very prestigious and the fact that Škoda Fabia Super 2000 cars occupied all the places on the winners’ podium is myximum we can achieve. This success belongs not only to Škoda and our whole team, but also our faithful fans. With regard to the altered programme of the IRC championship, we now have to immediately start preparations for the next race, which will be in the Canary Islands at the end of April.’
Juho Hänninen: ‘A great victory, we are hugely happy. After Brazil I was a little sad, but we did the most we could to win here. Now I will enjoy the celebrations and Mikko and me and the whole team will throw ourselves into preparations for the next races.’
Guy Wilks: ‘Both races in South America were fantastic, a great team performance, excellent presentation of the Škoda brand. Congratulations to Juho, he flew through the whole competition.’
Jan Kopecký: ‘I’m happy that we managed to accompany our team colleagues onto the podium. It was the best finish for Petr and I this season and I trust that in the next races we will be able to move even higher.’
- Skoda Auto