With crews preparing for Rally Poland’s opening superspecial stage this evening, predictions for the rally have been thrown out the window entirely thanks to heavy rainfall overnight. Instead of the expected hard and sandy surface, stages surrounding rally HQ in Mikołajki have turned into a mudbath, with Citroën’s Craig Breen describing conditions as being like a “battlefield”.
Breen suffered the most of anyone in the rutted stages, setting the slowest time of all the 2017 specification WRC cars, good for only 14th quickest overall. Despite only covering 19.6km of running this morning, the Irishman has already conceded the weather has put him in a tough position for the rest of the event.
“With the overnight rainfall, the road quickly became full of holes and rutted,” he said. “On our final pass, it looked more like a battlefield than a rally stage!
“We tried out quite a few options for these kinds of conditions, but I think we are preparing ourselves for a tough rally. It’ll all depend on what happens with the weather over the weekend.”
Breen was not the only Citroën driver to struggle their way through Thursday’s practice run. Andreas Mikkelsen was the fastest of the French marque’s entries, setting only the equal tenth fastest time, tied with WRC rookie Teemu Suninen. Despite being the best of the C3 WRCs, Mikkelsen’s warm-up plans had been far from perfect.
“We were unable to do our first run properly due to a minor technical problem,” he explained. “By the time we made our second attempt, the road was already rutted and it wasn’t easy to test our set-up because the conditions were so different to those we had experienced in testing. We nonetheless made a few adjustments. If it keeps raining, then the work we did this morning will be useful.”
To the relief of the Citroën drivers there is only one stage to contend with today, the 2.5km test around Mikołajki Arena. However, rainfall is forecasted to continue for the rest of the weekend, much to the vexation of Stéphane Lefebvre.
“I’d rather that fine weather returned and that the stages dried out; we’d undoubtedly be more comfortable.”