SS6/7: Tänak reins in Latvala

Ott Tänak sliced Jari-Matti Latvala’s Orlen 74th Rally Poland lead in half as conditions deteriorated on Friday afternoon.

Stage info: SS6/7

SS6: Chmielewo 2, 6.52km
Friday afternoon’s opening test is a mixture of wide and narrow roads but is fast throughout, with several flat-out jumps early on. The middle is technical and narrow, with tight corners up to the village of Grabówka, before fast and wide roads lead to the finish. The surface is sandy, apart from a short asphalt section which links two gravel roads. Identical to 2016.

SS7: Wieliczki 2, 15.05km
Wieliczki is fast and flowing for most of the way, with big cuts for the brave. Only the closing part is narrow and technical and here drivers must remain tidy, or risk going off. The stage crosses a railway line near the finish. Much of it was driven in the opposite direction in 2016, and only the opening kilometres to the village of Markowskie are the same as last year.

The afternoon’s opening stage, a repeat of the short Chmielewo test, was cancelled on safety grounds due to the sheer number of fans lining the roads.

When the action did resume in Wieliczki, Ford Fiesta driver Tänak was fastest of the quartet fighting for the lead and cut Latvala’s advantage to 2.3sec.

Although the rain had stopped, deep mud and ruts filled with standing water made driving even tougher than it was earlier. “Horrendous,” said Latvala. “Undriveable,” added Sébastien Ogier. “Crazy,” responded Tänak.

“It’s difficult to understand what is happening because it’s so slippery and rutted. It’s survival at the moment,” added Tänak, who was third quickest.

Tänak’s charge demoted Thierry Neuville to third. The Belgian was eighth fastest in his Hyundai i20 and said: “I tried to go out of the ruts but the road is gone. There’s no line and we’re clearing the road, it will be hard to hold off the guys starting behind us.”

Ogier was 16.3sec off the pace in his Fiesta, and the Frenchman slipped almost 20sec behind Latvala.

Pride of place at the top of the times went to Teemu Suninen. The Finn won his first WRC stage by 0.7sec from Haydon Paddon, less than 24 hours after driving a World Rally Car in earnest for the first time.

Craig Breen incurred a 70sec penalty after leaving mid-leg service seven minutes late following his Citroën C3’s transmission problems. He made set-up changes and planned more ahead of today’s final three stages.

The last word goes to seventh fastest Juho Hänninen. “Only God knows where the car is going in this mud!” said the Finn.

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

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