Thierry Neuville leads Rally Poland at Saturday’s midday service, but spent the morning losing and regaining the lead from Ott Tänak, the Estonian having briefly been out front despite a trip through a field.
Neuville had initially pulled away from Tänak in the morning’s opening stage, the set-up on the Ford softer than suited the quickly drying SS11. This led to Tänak flying off the road and into a field, but he came back swinging for the fences in SS12, gaining 6.1 seconds on the Belgian and vaulting him into the lead.
Neuville did not take his rival’s attack rolling over, putting in the second fastest time through SS13 and then winning SS14 to regain the lead, holding 1.3 seconds in hand going into the midday service.
Jari-Matti Latvala continues to hover behind the lead duo, 9.5 seconds off the lead and waiting for a chance to capitalise on any mistakes. Neuville though was firmly focused on his battle with Tänak rather than the Toyota potentially lying in wait.
“I’ve started pushing a bit more,” Neuville said. “Ott won’t give up so I have to push harder now. We have to be brave in some places and I really went for it, even in the braking I was very late. The afternoon will be tough. If it’s wet it will be a disaster.”
The weather has indeed been a major talking point all weekend, but whether there is rain or shine this afternoon, Sébastien Ogier was very much under the weather this morning. A sideways moment in the first turn of the morning’s opening stage sent his Fiesta WRC into a signpost, causing a left rear puncture. Further along the stage he also lost his front bumper, and the Frenchman’s tribulations allowed Hayden Paddon to streak past into a clear fourth place.
Hyundai piled more misery into the championship leader, as Dani Sordo then took fifth away from Ogier after a second puncture, the tyre this time coming off the rim altogether and sending him into a bank, removing the entire front aero of his Fiesta and making it very hard to drive for the rest of the morning loop.
“In a couple of jumps we were completely flying with no control,” he said, now trailing Sordo by 6.8 seconds.
While Teemu Suninen held steady in the seventh, Juho Hänninen dropped from eighth to tenth after engine problems struck his Toyota Yaris, promoting Stéphane Lefebvre and Mads Østberg to eighth and ninth respectively, despite the latter overshooting a junction in the Kruklanki stage.
Outside of the points, Andreas Mikkelsen‘s difficult weekend continued, taking a trip through a field and then mimicking compatriot Østberg with a junction overshoot of his own in Kruklanki.
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