Thierry Neuville took advantage of tricky road conditions in the afternoon loop of stages to overhaul Jari-Matti Latvala and Ott Tänak for the lead of Rally Poland, as championship leader Sébastien Ogier lost time hand over first in the waterlogged ruts of the afternoon loop.
With SS6 cancelled due to spectators placing themselves in unsafe areas, the second pass through Wieliczki was the first chance the drivers had to experience the now extremely rutted roads on the second pass through Friday’s stages.
“Terrible. It’s undriveable,” said Ogier after SS7, whose advantage of being first on the road in the morning pass had turned into a disadvantage by the afternoon. “I’m not sure the conditions are going to change now, but there is a lot of water in the ruts and it’s really hard.”
Dani Sordo took it to another level, scathing in his criticism of the muddy conditions.
“It’s totally stupid to drive like this,” complained the Spaniard. “It’s like a lottery, it’s not nice to drive.”
This clearing of the ruts allowed Neuville to press ahead, gaining nearly double figures seconds in each afternoon stage over title rival Ogier, also allowing him to edge ahead of the chasing pair of Tänak and Latvala in the process. His lead is a slender 1.3 seconds over Tänak, with a further 5.3 seconds in hand over the Toyota of Latvala.
“It’s really tricky and we are suffering with our road position,” said Neuville at the end of SS9. “We gained a bit [of time] in the morning, and we lost quite a lot in the afternoon, but when I start pushing the car it’s behaving very well.”
Ogier was left to fend off Hayden Paddon for fourth, the latter taking advantage of his lower running order to make inroads on the Frenchman. He managed to break away from the irate Sordo, who was struggling to cope with the treacherous conditions more than his Hyundai team-mates.
Teemu Suninen was one of the other main beneficiaries of a low running order in the afternoon loop, taking his first WRC stage win in SS7 on his senior debut, and moving past Juho Hänninen shortly thereafter.
Hänninen stuttered his way to to the end of the Mikołajki superspecial in eighth, and was left bemused as to what had caused the final stage gremlins which cost him eight seconds.
“I can guess as much as you that it’s a misfire,” he said, after being asked if it was the same issue that had hit team-mate Esapekka Lappi the previous evening. “It’s difficult to say [what it is], but there’s some problem.”
Stéphane Lefebvre was the best of the Citroën cars in 9th, the only one of the C3 WRC trio to be in a points position following Andreas Mikkelsen‘s collision with a tree in the morning loop.
|1.||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||56:21.2|
|2.||Ott Tänak||M-Sport World Rally Team||+1.3|
|3.||Jari-Matti Latvala||Toyota GAZOO Racing WRC||+6.6|
|4.||Sébastien Ogier||M-Sport World Rally Team||+35.1|
|5.||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai Motorsport||+39.6|
|6.||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||+51.7|
|7.||Teemu Suninen||M-Sport World Rally Team||+1:11.0|
|8.||Juho Hänninen||Toyota GAZOO Racing WRC||+1:28.9|
|9.||Stéphane Lefebvre||Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT||+1:37.0|
|10.||Mads Østberg||M-Sport World Rally Team||+1:42.7|
WRC2: Skoda Squabble For Lead After Greensmith Troubles
Ole Christian Veiby holds a narrow lead over fellow Skoda driver Pontus Tidemand after the first full day of action, edging what was previously a three-way battle involving Gus Greensmith until the Brit hit trouble in the afternoon loop.
Veiby snatched the lead from overnight leader Tidemand in SS2, initially having to fend off Greensmith for the lead until the Fiesta R5 driver’s boot flew open in SS5, leaving him unable to hear his co-driver Craig Parry and dropping him 20 seconds.
Tidemand started to make marginal inroads on the Norwegian class leader in the afternoon loop, and Greensmith fell out of contention altogether after hitting a concrete gulley in SS8, breaking the steering arm and dropping to 12th.
Quentin Gilbert is third, over two minutes off the lead battle, who is in turn a minute ahead of Benito Guerra in fourth place.
There were two major incidents during the day in the second tier category, starting with a rally-ending roll for Osian Pryce in SS2. Hubert Ptaszek followed suit in SS7, flipping his Skoda Fabia upside down and retiring on the spot.
|1.||Ole Christian Veiby||Printsport||1:00:41.7|
|2.||Pontus Tidemand||Skoda Motorsport II||+5.1|
|3.||Quentin Gilbert||Quentin Gilbert||+2:09.5|
|4.||Benito Guerra||Motorsport Italia SRL||+3:04.1|
|5.||Yoann Bonato||Yoann Bonato||+3:25.5|
|6.||Wojciech Chuchała||Sebastian Rozwadowski||+3:37.7|
|7.||Łukasz Pieniążek||TRT Peugeot World Rally Team||+3:42.9|
|8.||Raul Jeets||Tehase Auto||+3:43.0|
|10.||Pedro Heller||Pedro Heller||+4:20.7|
JWRC: Solans edging ahead in four-way lead battle
Having held his own in the opening two rounds of the championship, Nil Solans found himself under pressure all day long, having spent most of Friday chasing down Dennis Rådström for the lead, capitalising on a poor afternoon loop from the Swede to leapfrog to first after SS8.
Rådström’s main competition was initially series rookie Emil Lindholm, but the Finn was slow through both runs through the Stare Juchy stage. Having led the standings in the early morning, by the day’s end he had dropped 40 seconds behind, much of which stemmed from SS5 and SS9.
Their respective troubles in the afternoon loop allowed Solans to catch-up and pass for the lead, and he suggested his lack of pace in the morning loop was a deliberate tactic.
“In the morning we went calm, going very slowly, to check everything with road,” he said. “We’ll see tomorrow if it’s the same conditions or a bit more dry.
“I love when it’s dry and we can go absolutely flat out. We’ll see if we can enjoy more tomorrow than we did today.”
Terry Folb stayed close to the battle for the lead throughout, but lost some ground on the day’s penultimate stage with a puncture. The resulting time loss has sent him into the clutches of Nicolas Ciamin, and currently holds only the slimmest of margins over his countryman for fourth place.
Ciamin had conceded before the event began this would not be one of his better events, and so it proved, his inexperience in the low grip conditions leaving him unable to compete for the podium on pace alone.
“I struggled a lot in the wet conditions,” he explained. “I have really small experience in these conditions so I went carefully. This afternoon was much better. It’s too bad [in SS9] we made a spin, so we lost about 10 seconds.”
|1.||Nil Solans||Miquel Ibáñez||1:10:17.3|
|2.||Dennis Rådström||Johan Johansson||+25.1|
|3.||Emil Lindholm||Timo Tuominen||+42.7|
|4.||Terry Folb||Christopher Guieu||+51.1|
|5.||Nicolas Ciamin||Thibault de la Haye||+1:03.5|
|6.||Julius Tannert||Jürgen Heigl||+1:38.9|
|7.||Dillon van Way||Dai Roberts||+4:12.6|
|8.||Sebastian Careaga||Rodrigo Sanjuan||+9:27.6|