Russian Evgeniy Novikov continues to lead P-WRC race

01.11.2008: Russian Evgeniy Novikov continues to lead P-WRC race

Evgeniy Novikov turned in a tremendously mature drive behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution on the second morning of Rally Japan.

The 18-year-old Russian continues to lead the Production Car World Rally Championship standings, but is under pressure from the fast recovering Juho Hanninen who is now his nearest competition.

Eyvind Brynildsen (Mitsubishi) is third - the Norwegian recovering from his Sapporo Dome spin last night to move past Toshi Arai (Subaru) in SS13. Arai dropped 20 seconds to Brynildsen in the stage. There was worse news to come for Arai as well. Not only did Brynildsen pass him for position, but so did Hanninen.

Hanninen was most definitely the man on the move through Saturday morning’s stages. He started the day ninth in the P-WRC, but then launched an astonishing climb back up the leaderboard. Fastest on the day’s opening stage by six tenths of a second, the Finn was clearly in the groove one test later, when he lifted a whopping 21.6 seconds out of his nearest rival in the 31km Nikara test.

It was that time that moved him into fourth place behind Toshi Arai. He disposed of the double Production Car World Rally Champion with another scorching time in the very next stage. By the time the cars returned to service, Hanninen had slashed his gap to the leader to just 17sec and was in a much more positive frame of mind than he had been through yesterday’s stages.

"Today has been much better," said Hanninen. "I’ve had more confidence and I’ve been able to push. The car has felt very good. Okay, there have still been some tricky places, but I’m happier now."

It was the same story at the top of the timesheets as Novikov continued at his own pace. "The car felt like there might be something with the engine," said the Russian. "But it’s quite hard to tell when the surface is as bad as it is in some places."

Brynildsen had certainly not given up his hopes of a P-WRC victory in Japan. He added: "I’m still just driving my only rally, not worrying about what the others are doing. It’s a tough event."

Arai said: "I need to find some more speed. I don’t know what else I can do. It’s tough."


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01.11.2008 / MaP

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