In the first part of our look back at Orlen 74th Rally Poland, we identify the stage that changed everything and explain why Ole Christian Veiby took us by surprise.
Stage of the rally.
Saturday afternoon's Stage 16 was where the biggest drama played out in Poland. Thierry Neuville led going into the brand new Pozezdrze test, with Ott Tänak and Jari-Matti Latvala in hot pursuit. And then everything changed. Latvala was first to hit trouble, his Toyota coasting to retirement at 12.9km with a transmission problem.
Next, a furious Tänak reached the finish without a rear wing after it parted company with his Fiesta. Still, he took the lead after Neuville collected a puncture 2km from the start. Meanwhile Hayden Paddon benefited from Latvala's exit to take third place. So, a completely rejuvenated top three in just 21.24km. Top job, Pozezdrze [see more in the video below].
Quote of the rally.
We enjoyed hearing from WRC 2 competitor Yoann Bonato in Poland. The Frenchman made some great observations from behind the wheel of his Citroën DS 3.
Our favourite came after he emerged from a wet and slippery Stage five and said: "We are on the mountain of hell!" Luckily things had cooled down considerably by Stage nine, when he said the ruts in the road "were so deep it felt like I was in a bobsleigh."
One to forget.
Usually one of the championship's more positive and optimistic drivers, Craig Breen was stuck in the doldrums in Poland. A broken transmission ruined his Friday morning, and things didn't improve much when it was fixed. The Irishman suffered a crisis of confidence that afternoon and he was deeply uncomfortable at the wheel of his Citroën.
There were signs of improvement on Saturday, but it was an inconsistent picture with Breen frequently lacking the confidence to push on. In his own words, it was one of the most difficult rallies of his life. He’ll be looking for a fresh start when the championship resumes in Finland - the scene of his first podium last year.
Surprise of the rally.
Taking nothing away from Ole Christian Veiby's win in WRC 2, it did come as a bit of a surprise that the Norwegian youngster was able to take victory from the more experienced Pontus Tidemand. But that's exactly what he did.
Veiby took the lead in Stage two in a privately-run Skoda and then clung on as he was pursued by factory-backed Pontus, who so far this year had a perfect winning record in WRC 2. Veiby's luck seemed to have run out when he picked up a puncture in Saturday's Goldap stage, but when, in another surprise, Tidemand did too, Veiby’s advantage soared over the minute mark, paving the way for a comfortable win. Even Veiby was surprised. “I'm almost out of words. I was absolutely not expecting to come to Poland and beat Pontus," he said at the finish.
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