SS13/14: Neuville regains top spot
Thierry Neuville regained the lead of Orlen 74th Rally Poland for the third time as this thrilling battle took another twist on Saturday morning.
Stage info: SS13/14
SS13: Goldap 1, 14.75km
Frequent surface changes make Goldap a tough challenge as the road switches between loose gravel and a harder base on several occasions. It is narrow, open and fast and the characteristics are different to the previous day’s tests – still quick, but not as wide. The final kilometre runs alongside the backdrop of picturesque homes and farm buildings.
SS14: Kruklanki 1, 19.58km
Breathtaking views and the chance for fans to see huge swathes of the test are the hallmarks of Kruklanki. The final 2km are full of spectacular corners and crests and offer some of the most exciting viewing of the event. Some parts are wide, some are narrower and there is a section lined by trees, but the speed remains high throughout. Bales are positioned on the inside of most corners for the final 6km to prevent cutting.
Second fastest time in Goldap and victory in Kruklanki enabled him to relegate Ott Tänak from the head of the leaderboard and return to mid-leg service in Mikolajki with a 1.3sec advantage in his Hyundai i20.
It was the sixth time the lead has changed hands in 14 stages and the Belgian admitted the time had come to throw caution to the wind.
“I’ve started pushing a bit more,” he 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.”
Tänak was third in both tests and the Estonian was also in full attack mode in his Ford Fiesta. “I’m pushing to the maximum. The last split was so extreme, so difficult. I’m using all of the road and a lot more,” he explained.
Third-placed Jari-Matti Latvala remained in contact with the leading duo, but the gap to Tänak rose to 8.2sec. Seventh in Goldap was followed by second in Kruklanki and the Finn was no less committed in his Toyota Yaris.
“It’s a big, big attack. The car worked better because the ruts weren’t so massive. When the ruts are big then I’m losing time,” he admitted.
Hayden Paddon was a contented fourth in his i20. He topped the times in Goldap, sensing an opportunity to drive home his advantage over Sébastien Ogier. “He’s struggling a bit without the front aero and I’m trying to build a bit of a margin,” he said.
Team-mate Dani Sordo was sixth, splitting Paddon and Ogier, who explained more about his earlier problems.
A slow puncture in the opening stage was followed by another flat early in the following test. The tyre eventually came off the wheel rim and Ogier spun his Fiesta and hit a kerb. The impact removed much of his Fiesta’s front aero, providing some scary moments.
“In a couple of jumps we were completely flying with no control,” said the Frenchman, who trailed Sordo by 6.8sec.
Teemu Suninen retained seventh but Juho Hänninen fell away from eighth in his Yaris. An engine problem forced him to keep the revs high and he slipped to 10th behind Stephane Lefebvre and Mads Østberg.
Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen lost time after overshooting junctions in Kruklanki, while Elfyn Evans stalled in a chicane.
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