SS11/12: Tänak back in front

Ott Tänak moved back into the lead of Orlen 74th Rally Poland on Saturday morning despite plunging off the road and into a field.

Stage info: SS11/12

SS11: Baranowo 1, 15.55km
A familiar name but with many modifications. Much of the test was driven in the opposite direction over the last three years but little has been used in this format. The opening 3.4km comprise a new technical section through a forest before joining last year’s route, but in the reverse direction. It ends with a final blast after a sharp asphalt turn in Uzranki.

SS12: Pozezdrze 1, 24.28km
Pozezdrze has never been used in any rally previously and small lakes, hills and open fields provide stunning backdrops to the action. It is a mix of fast sandy roads, narrower parts and even a short section of asphalt. The quick open corners allow plenty of opportunities for cutting, while there are also plenty of potholes which will be tricky if conditions are wet.

It was a dramatic opening to the second leg for the Estonian, who dropped back from overnight leader Thierry Neuville in the opening Baranowo speed test after feeling his Ford Fiesta’s set-up was too soft for the rapidly drying roads.

He bounced back in the following Pozezdrze to win the stage by 3.0sec from Hayden Paddon. More importantly for Tänak, he was 6.1sec quicker than Neuville’s Hyundai i20 to relegate the Belgian to second by 3.5sec.

But Tänak was breathing a sigh of relief. “Very slippery and we went off into a field. We were very lucky,” he said. He spent several minutes at the end of the stage clearing grass and earth from the air intakes at the front of the Fiesta.

Neuville clipped a small rock in Baranowo but had a 3.7sec advantage over Jari-Matti’s Toyota Yaris in third overall. The Finn pipped Neuville by 0.8sec to win the opener.

There was more drama further down the order as Sébastien Ogier dropped to fifth after swiping a road sign in the first corner of Pozezdrze. The Frenchman dropped 30sec and his Fiesta looked somewhat battered as he pulled up at the finish.

His rear left wheel was broken, the tyre was shredded, the front bumper was missing and the splitter was dragging. Ogier did not elaborate on what happened but replaced the wheel before heading off to the next stage.

The time loss demoted him to fifth behind Paddon and only 1.0sec ahead of Dani Sordo.

Elsewhere, Andreas Mikkelsen lost time in his Citroën C3 after going off the road and into a field. The Norwegian remains 12th.

Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Orlen 74th Rally Poland.

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