The reigning champion of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) has become the series’ most successful driver after winning the Prime Yalta Rally in Ukraine. Skoda’s Juho Hanninen now has seven wins under his belt, one more than Belgian Freddy Loix. The win also puts the Finn back on top of the IRC drivers’ standings and Skoda ahead of Peugeot in the manufacturers’ race.

Peugeot’s Bryan Bouffier came in second, ahead of Hanninen’s Skoda teammate, Czech driver Jan Kopecky. In the standings, Hanninen has 58 points, three more than Kopecky and nine points more than Bouffier, so there’s still plenty to play for. The top five are only separated by 13 points.

In Ukraine, Hanninen looked good for the win going into Saturday’s final six stages. He led Bouffier by 8.2s at that point. The Frenchman pulled it back to 5.1s at the midmorning service halt but the Finn charged his way to victory after that. For Kopecky, a less than confident stage 11 had allowed Andreas Mikkelsen (Skoda) to threaten his third place but successive stage wins in the afternoon cancelled out the Norwegian threat.

No points for Proton, who had to see Giandomenico Basso retire with engine damage. After running as high as fifth, the Italian reached Friday night’s service in 10th overall, but didn’t continue on Saturday. Oil pressure issues forced out PG Andersson on Friday.

The third Proton driven by local heroes Oleksandr Saliuk Sr and Evgen Chervonenko finished third in the Ukrainian National Rally Championship. The former USSR Rally Champion was a big draw at Yalta, drawing thousands to the event and even Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to the Proton camp! Apparently, the Neo S2000’s fetching looks got plenty of media attention and Proton’s merchandise was sold out, so there’s some consolation to be had.

The next IRC event is the Ypres Rally in Belgium from 23 to 25 June.