SS15/16: Drama for leading trio
It was all change once again at the head of the Orlen 74th Rally Poland leaderboard as all three contenders for victory hit trouble in the same Saturday afternoon speed test.
Stage info: SS15/16
SS15: Baranowo 2, 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.
SS16: Pozezdrze 2, 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.
Ott Tänak emerged from the 24.28km Pozezdrze back in front in his Ford Fiesta. But he completed the test with his aerodynamic rear wing missing and must drive the final three special stages with much reduced downforce. What impact will that have on performance?
The Estonian was only fourth fastest as a result, but left the finish with a 14.4sec lead over Thierry Neuville, who dropped 20sec with a rear left puncture in his Hyundai i20.
The Belgian drove all but 2km of the test with the flat. The tyre was shredded by the finish and the i20’s rear left panel was missing as a result of the flailing rubber. Can he recover to capitalise on Tänak’s problem?
Jari-Matti Latvala (pictured) suffered worst of all. The third-placed Finn parked his Toyota Yaris midway through the stage with a technical problem. He worked on the car by the side of the road but his efforts were in vain and he retired for the day.
Hayden Paddon climbed into a podium place and was fastest in Pozezdrze in his Hyundai i20 by 2.7sec from Sébastien Ogier and Dani Sordo. Second for Ogier promoted the Frenchman into fourth overall, 1.8sec ahead of Sordo.
The previous Baranowo test was quiet by comparison. Neuville headed Tänak, who had a precautionary alternator change at mid-leg service, with Latvala third. Latvala had a scary moment when he thought his Yaris would roll, while team-mate Juho Hänninen punctured.
SS13/14: Neuville regains top spot
Thrilling fight for lead in Poland
SS11/12: Tänak back in front
Estonian leads despite sliding off road
Friday in Poland: Neuville leads three-car fight
Heavy rain creates tough conditions