Thierry Neuville went fastest through this morning’s 4.9km Sady shakedown test, edging out Ott Tänak and Hyundai team-mate Hayden Paddon on the muddy and rutted surface of Rally Poland.
With the rain pouring down on Wednesday night, the normally smooth and sandy stages had been transformed into a mudbath, the 380hp four wheel drive WRC cars creating deeper ruts after every pass of the shakedown route.
As drivers cut through the slippery top layer to the surface below, times improve, with all the frontrunners setting their quickest times on the third pass through the stage.
“The car felt good,” said Neuville afterwards. “We didn’t make any changes, just worked a bit on the ride height because the roads were getting very destroyed. Other than that, I felt comfortable from the beginning.”
Sébastien Ogier made clear his worries over potential road-sweeping duties as first on the road before the rally, and with Neuville running immediately behind the Frenchman, was set to suffer the same fate. The sudden downpour overnight has turned the event on its head, and Neuville feels a win could now be on the cards come Sunday.
“The rain should be a benefit for me because the road will be wet and there will be less sweeping,” he said. “On the other hand, it makes it more tricky so you can easily go off by being surprised by the loss of grip.”
“I would like the rally to be dry and consistent for the grip, but on the other hand if you want a chance to win then the wet conditions are better for us.”
Ogier was fourth fastest, with Jari-Matti Latvala in the lead Toyota and Dani Sordo in the last Hyundai completing the top six, the only cars within two seconds of the Belgian.
Seventh fastest was Toyota rookie Esapekka Lappi, and the Finn had pinpointed the difficulties of heavy rain falling potentially falling over the course of the weekend.
“With a lot of sections between the fields there no ditches at all,” he explained. “When and if it’s going to rain, the water cannot go out from the road, and so the roads are getting really muddy.
“You should be able to keep the speed up, but it’s going to be really crazy.”
Teemu Suninen was the most active driver during shakedown, taking advantage of five passes through the test to help acclimatise to WRC machinery on his top-level debut with the M-Sport team. He went tenth fastest of all, tying with Andreas Mikkelsen – the best of the Citroëns – 3.1 seconds off the pace.
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