Neuville tops Poland shakedown

Thierry Neuville edged Ott Tänak to top a wet and muddy shakedown at Orlen 74th Rally Poland on Thursday morning.

He posted fastest time on his third and final run through the 4.90km Sady test in a Hyundai i20 Coupe. The Belgian pipped Ott Tänak by two-tenths of a second, with team-mate Hayden Paddon 0.4sec further back.

Heavy overnight rain transformed the sandy gravel roads into a muddy mess, and ruts formed as the powerful four-wheel drive machinery quickly cut through the soft surface.

Neuville was fastest in the first pass, but Jari-Matti Latvala topped the standings after the second run in his Toyota Yaris. All the leading drivers set their best times in their third pass and Neuville returned to the top ahead of Tänak’s Ford Fiesta.

“The car felt good,” said Neuville. “We didn’t make any changes, just worked a bit on the ride height because the roads were getting very destroyed. Other than that, I felt comfortable from the beginning.

“The rain should be a benefit for me because the road will be wet and there will be less sweeping. On the other hand, it makes it more tricky so you can easily go off by being surprised by the loss of grip.

“I would like the rally to be dry and consistent for the grip, but on the other hand if you want a chance to win then the wet conditions are better for us,” he added.

Sébastien Ogier, driving another Fiesta, Latvala and Hyundai’s Dani Sordo filled the top six times.

World Rally Car debutant Teemu Suninen completed five runs as he made the most of the time behind the wheel of his Fiesta. The Finn was 10th, tied with Andreas Mikkelsen who was the quickest Citroën C3 driver.

The leading times were:

Position Driver Car Time
1. Thierry Neuville Hyundai i20 2min 12.1sec
2. Ott Tänak Ford Fiesta + 0.2sec
3. Hayden Paddon Hyundai i20 + 0.6sec
4. Sébastien Ogier Ford Fiesta + 1.0sec
5. Jari-Matti Latvala Toyota Yaris + 1.2sec
6. Dani Sordo Hyundai i20 + 1.7sec
7. Esapekka Lappi Toyota Yaris + 2.1sec
8. Mads Østberg Ford Fiesta + 2.4sec
9. Juho Hänninen Toyota Yaris + 2.6sec
10= Teemu Suninen Ford Fiesta + 3.1sec
10= Andreas Mikkelsen Citroën C3 + 3.1sec

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