Volkswagen‘s Andreas Mikkelsen snatched victory in 2016 Rally Poland on Sunday afternoon after the DMACK Ford Fiesta of Ott Tänak suffered heartbreak before the end of the rally.
Tänak’s Ford Fiesta RS suffered a puncture on the penultimate stage, wiping the Estonian’s near-20 second lead coming into the final stage, giving the Volkswagen Polo R Norwegian driver his second win in his WRC career. Mikkelsen is the sixth different driver to win in what is an unpredictable 2016 WRC season.
Day 1 (Friday) – Tänak leads, Ogier struggles
The DMACK Ford Fiesta of Ott Tänak was in superb form during the Friday running, winning the last three stages on Friday to lead overnight. Andreas Mikkelsen, the early leader was 2nd after he was unhappy with the handling of his Polo R after the soft roads became heavily rutted, leaving him no choice to close the gap to the Estonian.
Mikkelsen said “An exciting day with a great battle for the lead. This morning I felt extremely comfortable in the Polo. It was a real pleasure to tackle these fast and beautiful special stages.
“However, I was not 100 per cent happy with the set-up in the afternoon. Despite this, we put our foot down and tried not to lose any time or gift the opposition a tenth of a second. All in all, I am happy, as we got the maximum out of the day. We still have two challenging days ahead of us – and we are looking forward to them.”
Tänak said “I really enjoyed today, we had a great time and its so much fun when we are pushing hard and can compete with the guys at the top. Everything has worked well today and we are both so happy to be consistently scoring fastest times and leading the rally overnight.”
Hayden Paddon in the Hyundai i20 was third despite winning three stages. The New Zealander was not comfortable with his i20, making set-up changes to combat the deep ruts, which failed to make a difference to his i20.
Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier endured a tough Friday at Rally Poland, leaving him 16.3 seconds off the leader in fourth. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville was fifth, whilst Ogier’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was sixth. The Citroens of Stéphane Lefebvre and Craig Breen were seventh and eighth while the Ford Fiesta’s of Eric Camilli and Mads Østberg completed the top 10.
Day 2 (Saturday) – Tänak extends his lead to over 20 seconds, ahead of Mikkelsen and Paddon
DMACK Team’s Ott Tänak extended his lead to over 21.3 seconds over Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon ahead of the final day at Rally Poland.
Tänak completed the longest day of the event with his fellow co-driver Raigo Mõlder, winning the first three speed tests on Saturday morning to increase his lead over the Volkswagen Norwegian pairing of Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger from 4.2 seconds to 18 seconds. Tänak’s lead at the end of Saturday from Mikkelsen in second was 21.3 seconds, giving him a great opportunity at winning Rally Poland on Sunday.
Tänak said after Day 2 “I’m relaxed and hope I have enough in hand for tomorrow. I’ve led for the last two days so why not tomorrow? I was flat out in every corner this morning and did everything I could to extend the lead. I knew the afternoon would be tough in the extreme heat, it’s not easy for the tyres.”
Hayden Paddon was still third in the final provisional podium after set-up changes with his i20 meant that the Kiwi was much happier with the car, but his driving was ragged at times, leaving him behind Mikkelsen, but the gap closed between the VW and Hyundai.
Paddon’s team-mate Thierry Neuville was fourth after surviving a bizarre incident when his gear stick broke and fell into the footwell. The Belgian complained of slow pacenotes from his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul which was the cause of the fast, but technical roads of Poland.
The Volkswagen’s of Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier were fifth and sixth respectively with the Citroen’s of Stéphane Lefevbre and Craig Breen seventh and eighth. Ford’s Eric Camilli and Mads Østberg completed the top 10, coming into the final day of Rally Poland.
Day 3 (Sunday) – Mikkelsen wins after Tänak’s misfortune
Day 3 of Rally Poland proved to be a bitter pill for Ott Tänak to swallow as he lost the lead of the rally at the penultimate stage due to a puncture, giving Andreas Mikkelsen his first win of the 2016 World Rally Championship season.
Tänak’s DMACK Ford Fiesta had a 21.3 second lead coming into the final day of Rally Poland. It was looking good for the Estonian to win until he suffered a tyre puncture on the penultimate stage, wiping his near-20 second lead to the Volkswagen of Mikkelsen, who won the rally by 26.2 seconds ahead of Tänak.
It was a very tough Sunday for Tänak, who looked certain to win at the start of Sunday only to lose at the end of the rally. Tänak said “It was an event of mixed emotions; we were really disappointed at losing the battle for a debut victory so close to the end after fighting so hard all weekend. But the performance proves what we are capable of and the improvements DMACK has made with the tyres. Driving on these high-speed stages is an incredible feeling, so much fun.”
Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen empathised with Tänak after suffering similar misfortune at Rally Sweden last year in the lead of the rally. The Norwegian said “I told Ott before the final stage that I felt so sorry for him. It would have been an adventure story but that’s the way rallying is. It’s very unpredictable.”
Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon was the final podium finisher in third, ending his run of two straight retirements in the last two rounds. His team-mate Thierry Neuville was fourth, ahead of the Volkswagens Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier in fifth and sixth after both drivers struggled in the final day of the rally.
Citroen’s Craig Breen was 7th, while Mads Østberg, Eric Camilli and the Skoda of Temmu Suninen completed the top 10 for Rally Poland.
WRC PZM 73rd Rally Poland 2016 – Final Results
1. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger (NOR) Volkswagen Motorsport II Volkswagen 2hr 37m 34.4sec
2. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST) DMACK World Rally Team Ford +26.2s
3. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai +28.5s
4. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai +29.3s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala/Mikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen +33.8s
6. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen +40.3s
7. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (IRL) Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen +2m 1.4s
8. Mads Østberg/Ola Floene (NOR) M-Sport World Rally Team Ford +3m 4.6s
9. Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (FRA) M-Sport World Rally Team Ford +5m 23.1s
10. Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (FIN) Team Oreca Skoda +5m 53.3s