Juho Hanninen's chances of retaining his Intercontinental Rally Challenge title now look remote after Skoda opted not to enter him for this weekend's Sanremo Rally.
Although Skoda announced at the start of the year that Hanninen would not defend his IRC title and would instead focus on the World Rally Championship's S2000 class, he has still been entered for five IRC events so far and won the Canarias, Yalta and Azores rallies.
That meant he briefly led both the SWRC and IRC standings simultaneously, but he has since fallen to third in the IRC points while his Skoda teammate Jan Kopecky, who is contesting every round, took the championship lead by winning in the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Despite Hanninen appearing on the provisional entry list for Sanremo, Skoda has now confirmed that its only full factory car on the event will be Kopecky's. The team is concerned by the closeness of Hanninen's next SWRC event, Rally de France, the recce for which begins two days after Rallye Sanremo finishes.
"From what we can understand, it's a slightly odd situation," a source at the team said. "Hanninen is definitely down on the entry list, we can see that from the documentation here in Italy, but the team tells us he won't be starting. It's quite close to France, but equally an asphalt rally would be a good way to prepare for the next SWRC round."
Hanninen will remain on the Rallye Sanremo documentation until he fails to take the start on Friday afternoon. Czech manufacturer Skoda is known to be keen to see home driver Kopecky take an IRC title.
With the IRC's points system only counting drivers' best seven scores and the final two rounds in Scotland and Cyprus counting for points-and-a-half and double points, respectively, Hanninen could yet have a title shot if Skoda decides to bring him back into its IRC fold later in the year.