Volkswagen Motorsport held the top three positions after nine special stages of a fascinating LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland on Friday. The lead changed three times during the day and it was the runaway World Championship leaders, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who reached the overnight halt with an advantage of just 2.1 seconds.
Andreas Mikkelsen had grabbed the initiative after the second stage and he shadowed the Frenchman to the overnight halt in second position. Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala set one fastest time on his way to third in the other Volkswagen Polo R WRC.
“I am quite happy with my position, especially as I started first on the road this morning,”
“Tyre choice was very important, but I have lifted myself into a fantastic position. Now I have to do the same again tomorrow.We were not on a great tyre choice and I made one mistake on one stage, so to be only two seconds behind Seb at the end of the day is fine,”
Estonian Ott Tanak was the revelation of the morning’s loop of four timed tests and the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver reached the halfway point of the day with a 9.3-second advantage over Mikkelsen. But tyre strategy and excessive tyre wear in the afternoon heat were contributing factors to the outcome of the day and Tanak began to slip behind the trio of Volkswagens, his cause not helped by front brake woes. He finished the day with three stage wins in fourth place.
Kiwi Hayden Paddon rounded off the top five in the first of the works Hyundai i20 WRCs and local hero Robert Kubica finished the day in a solid sixth position. Belgian Thierry Neuville was seventh, Ulsterman Kris Meeke held eighth and Dani Sordo and Mads Østberg rounded off the top 10.
Flying Finn Esapekka Lappi admitted that he still had more to give, but a relentless pace by the Skoda Fabia R5 driver catapulted him into 12th overall and a WRC 2 lead of 50.1 seconds.
“No drama and no problem. Everything is going well,”
said the Finn calmly.
“There is no reason to push. I am enjoying the driving.”
Pontus Tidemand won the eighth and ninth stages and held second overall, but series leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah damaged his Ford’s suspension on the opening timed test and retired.
Italian Simone Tempestini was locked in a dogfight with Frenchman Quentin Gilbert and Welshman Osian Pryce for WRC 3 supremacy. The trio were separated by just 24 seconds after eight stages, but Pryce had regained the advantage he had lost earlier in the day to head his two fellow Citroën DS3 RST rivals.
“I am delighted to be back at the front,”
said the Welshman.
“It’s even more satisfying after we lost about 25 seconds when I caught a car in the first pass through the long stage this morning.”
Friday – as it happened
Blazing morning sunshine and cloudless skies greeted the 70 entrants to the start of the 13km of the Gorklo special and leader Ogier posted the target time of 6min 00.4sec on one of the fastest WRC stages of the entire season. But the Frenchman had taken on surface cleaning duties and his time was surpassed by Mikkelsen, Tanak, Meeke and Latvala, with the former taking the outright lead.
Al-Attiyah damaged the front-left suspension on his Ford Fiesta four kilometres into the stage, Jari Ketomaa punctured and reached the finish with smoke billowing from the rear of his Fiesta, but fellow Finn Esapekka Lappi set a stunning time to claim the WRC 2 lead with his works Skoda Fabia R5. Karl Kruuda settled into second.
The third Goldap special took crews close to the border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast and included several sections of asphalt amongst the gravel. Tanak was in fine form and the Estonian claimed the quickest time and moved into the outright lead of a WRC event for the first time. The Ford driver was a mere one-tenth of a second ahead of Mikkelsen, with Latvala and Ogier in close attendance.
Lappi extended his WRC 2 advantage over Lefebvre to 7.3 seconds with another quickest time. Osian Price held a slender lead over Quentin Gilbert in WRC 3.
Hanging dust under the trees was a factor near the start of the first Babki stage and it actually gave Ogier a slight advantage, despite the Frenchman running first on the road. He was beaten only by a flying Tanak and the Estonian extended his lead over Mikkelsen to 4.9 seconds.
Ketomaa overcame having to stop the engine on the third stage because of a power steering issue to beat Lefebvre in the WRC 2 category in Babki. Lappi was again in fine form and the Finn continued to edge clear of Tidemand, but Lefebvre stopped on the road liaison after the stage with radiator issues and incurred a time penalty.
The first of two runs through the 39.12km of Stanczyki was next on the agenda and Tanak continued to push hard, despite his rear brakes working intermittently. He reached the stage finish with badly worn front tyres, but a third successive quickest time was sufficient for the Estonian to reach the remote tyre-fitting zone with a lead over Mikkelsen of 9.3 seconds.
Lappi moved further ahead of his WRC 2 rivals with another potent stage time and Simone Tempestini reached the tyre change with a 0.6-second lead over Gilbert in WRC 3. Pryce slipped to third on the fifth stage.
A re-run of Babki followed the midday break and Ogier opted for soft compound tyres and shaved 14 seconds off his morning’s time as the stage continued to clean. Mikkelsen was forced off the road into a field and dropped four seconds to the defending World Champion and Tanak extended his overall lead to 10.9 seconds, despite setting the fifth quickest time.
Tyre choice was critical on the second run through the gruelling Stanczyki special and Ogier was quickest, even though he was not too happy with his choice of tyre compound. He managed to beat Latvala by 1.2 seconds to claim the quickest time and snatched the outright lead when worn tyres and fading brakes cost Tanak vital seconds and Mikkelsen failed to find a good rhythm.
The Frenchman reached the start of the second Goldap stage with a lead of 1.7 seconds over Mikkelsen. Tanak was a close third and Latvala and Hayden Paddon rounded off the top five. Lappi continued to dominate in WRC 2.
Tyre wear continued to be a factor through Goldap 2 and it cost Tanak his place in the top three. The Estonian reached the flying finish with one rim literally on the canvas. A quickest time propelled Latvala into third and Ogier edged 1.9 seconds ahead of Mikkelsen to ensure a Volkswagen 1-2-3 reached the final 2.5km super special stage of the day at Mikolajki Arena
Tomorrow (Saturday) teams will tackle a further eight special stages, starting with the first of two high-speed runs through the 17.70km of the Mazury special at 08.25hrs and culminating in the third pass through the Mikolajki super special at 20.18hrs.
Four timed tests in the morning will be split by a return to the Mikolajki service park around 13.30hrs. In a day’s route of 574.93km, 129.29km will be competitive.
Com o Rali Baía Azul terminou a 4ª prova do CARR 20XV. Ainda faltam outras 4.
Na Classe M, Yvens dos Santos mantem o 1º lugar mas perdeu 2 pontos para Zé Comando e a distancia é também de 2 pontos. Ambos correm com Yamaha WR 450. Em 3º lugar está Pedro Vilela com uma KTM e tem uma diferença de 15 pontos para o Yvens.
Na Classe Q, Pajó Trindade com a Honda TRX 450, mantem o 1º lugar seguindo por Tiago Moniz, com a Yamaha Raptor, a 10 pontos e depois com menos 10 pontos, Hamilton Gonçalves, com Yamaha Raptor. Hamilton foi o que mais perdeu na Baía Azul porque não pontuou.
Na Classe TT, reservada aos pilotos, Maló Almeida com a Nissan Hardbody vai com 3 triunfos seguidos. Mário Passos, com o Jeep Wrangler fez 2 segundos lugares nas ultimas provas. Será que vai ser assim até ao fim de Campeonato?
A Classe TT, para co-pilotos, não vai ter historia está ao final do Campeonato. João Paulo vai com certeza ser o Campeão. Para além dos excelentes resultados do seu piloto, não tem adversários.
Na classe rainha, Classe E, já 18 pilotos pontuaram. Fruto da sua regularidade e com uma vitória no Namibe, Edwin Santos e o seu Polaris RZR 900 vão à frente. João Lota com um Polaris 1000 está em 2º e Bruno Santos em 3º também com um Polaris 1000. João Lota está a 13 pontos e não vai ao Longa. Bruno Santos está a 20 pontos mas pode no Longa aproximar-se da frente.
A prova em circuito fechado intitulada 2 Horas TT do Longa by CARGO será a 18 e 19 de Julho.