Russia - SS11 - 8.65km
The final day of racing at Rally Russia has begun in the Vyborg region near the Finnish border, and it seems that leading driver Juho Hanninen has decided not to take too many risks this morning as he attempts to secure the Skoda team's maiden IRC
On the short eight-kilometre Dubinino run which began the Day Three action, 2007 Rally Russia winner Anton Alen gave the Abarth team its first stage victory so far by completing the distance with a best time of 4:22.2.
The win was surely a relief for the Italian operation following a difficult Day Two, and it also signed the end of Hanninen's uninterrupted string of stage victories which began on Thursday evening.
The leading Skoda team was not far behind however, as Jan Kopecky brought his Fabia S2000 into second place 1.5sec behind. The Czech driver is hoping he can confirm his place on the Russian podium this year.
"Last year too, I was second, but there was one rock that I didn't see and I lost it like this," he remembered. "This year I'm not pushing so much, I just try to stay on the road, looking for the rocks and the stones, avoiding problems and punctures."
Setting the third-quickest result, current Russian champion Aleksandr Zheludov followed by an additional 1.2sec at the wheel of his Tsunami Rally Team Peugeot 207.
Guy Wilks and his Proton Satria Neo S2000 came 0.1sec close to taking Zheludov's spot as he continues to show the new car's capabilities. Patrik Flodin was also close, only a half-second behind with his Uspenskiy Team Subaru Impreza.
Rally leader Juho Hanninen has opted for safer tactics this morning; the Finn was sixth-fastest on this run, but the short distance meant that he only ceded 4.1sec from his overall advantage.
"It has been perfect so far," he declared. "We had no punctures, we made no mistakes and we had no problems with the car. Now I'm driving more carefully. For me, it's not a big shame if I lose some stages."
Giandomenico Basso claimed the seventh-best time at the controls of his Abarth Team Grande Punto; Austria's Franz Wittmann came next aboard his Mitsubishi Lancer but dropped 21.3sec to the stage winner.
The leaderboard shows a 57.2-second advantage for Juho Hanninen on Jan Kopecky. In third place overall, Giandomenico Basso is nearly two minutes further behind, but his third place on the provisional podium is comfortable as the Italian leads fourth-placed Patrik Flodin (doing an excellent job at the wheel of a non-S2000 car) by over a minute and a half.
Aleksandr Zheludov is in fifth position an additional half-minute away, while Guy Wilks still has four more stages to reduce the 6.6-second gap keeping him out of the top five.
The Perevoznoe 1 test comes next.