Poland’s fast and sandy gravel roads mark the start of a summer speedfest in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Hot on the heels of this week’s Orlen 74th Rally Poland (29 June - 2 July) comes the classic Neste Rally Finland (27 - 30 July), both characterised by blisteringly quick dirt speed tests which provide spectacular viewing.
Poland’s encounter, round eight of 13, brings much that is new. Although the picturesque Masurian lake district territory is familiar to championship regulars, most of the second and third legs feature roads not used 12 months ago.
It begins on Thursday evening with the traditional head-to-head battles around the Mikolajki Arena super special stage next to the service park. The 2.50km test also closes Friday and Saturday.
Friday’s stages east of the town are virtually identical to 2016. Just a couple of short sections in Wieliczki are new, with four morning tests repeated in the afternoon following mid-leg service in Mikolajki, ahead of the arena repeat.
Saturday is the longest, with almost 145km packed into nine stages. It journeys north, close to the border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, and the format is identical to the previous day. Four stages are driven twice either side of service, before a final arena run.
Pozezdrze and Kruklanki are both new, while only a short section of Baranowo was driven in the same format 12 months ago. The most northerly Goldap is identical to last year.
Sunday’s finale is totally new compared with 2016, two loops of Orzysz and Paprotki totaling a fraction under 60km. The second pass of Paprotki firms the rally-closing live TV Power Stage, which offers bonus points to the fastest five drivers.
The 23 stages cover 320.56km in a total route of 1408.75km.