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GP Week : Issue 148
Visiting drivers have taken the top four places in the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland, Round 4 of the 2012 IRC, the first time a non-Irish or British resident driver has won this historic event. After a remarkably close battle between Juho Hanninen and Andreas Mikkelsen, which ended less than two hours before the finish, the Finn was finally assured of victory only after the Nor wegian lost time going off the road on a superspecial stage. Apart from the opening superspecial stage held in Belfast’s historic docklands, where Kopecky was quickest, Hannuinen and Mikkelsen won every stage, and until Mikkelsen’s misdemeanour the lead was only once greater than 5.5 seconds, when Mikkelsen made a first off -oad excursion. Sudden rain showers on the Friday evening led to tricky driving conditions, although one of the two planned night stages was cancelled because of organisational delays due to an accident on the support national event earlier in the afternoon. This was quite the most important rally in Ireland since the Sligo-based cross- border WRC event in 2009, though this time all the stages were run within the Northern Ireland province. Hopes that the new wide-track Peugeots would challenge the Skodas failed, with Breen incurring road penalties for a fuel problem and Matthieu Arzeno, on his first event in Ireland, being slowed by gearbox trouble. The hopes of Northern Irelander Alastair Fisher ended when he went off the road. Best Production category car was Gary Jennings’ Evo IX and the best two-wheel drive car was the DS3 of Fiesta S2000 driver Northern Irelander Martin McCormack. The top national category driver was Darren Gass in a Subaru World Rally Car, whose speed put him equivalent to fourth place in the International event. 1 Hanninen/Markkula Skoda Fabia S2000 1h58m21.8 2 Mikkelsen/Floene Skoda Fabia S2000 1h59m06.0s 3 Kopecky/Dresler Skoda Fabia S2000 2h00m01.3s Paolo Alessandrini Italian rally driver and team manager Paulo Alessandrini has died, aged 56, following complications after a heart attack. In the later 80s he contested various WRC events, firstly with a Peugeot 205 T1and a Lancia Delta S4, then later with various Lancia Delta Group A cars. There were two special moments in his career. Firstly in the 1988 WRC Olympus Rally in Washington State in USA when he won the very first stage, a superspecial held in the streets of Tacoma. Friends and journalists urged him to withdraw from the rally and indeed the sport at that moment, so he could say he moved on while at the top of his career as a driver. He declined to do so, to his continuing regret! With his brother Alessandro, who used to be his co-driver, they then ran the ART team, and in 1991their driver Piero Liatti became European rally champion at the wheel of a Lancia run by ART. IRC VISITORS SCOOP THE IRISH POOL Hanninen (above) was the eventual winner, beating Mikkelsen (below, on the Docklands Superspecial) 15 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: WRC >>> news