Compared to 2015, a third of this year's PZM 73rd Rally Poland stages have changed. But having driven them earlier this week on the pre-event recce, we can reveal that it looks pretty familiar. And just as mind-bendingly quick.
Sometimes referred to as Rally Finland without the jumps, Poland runs it a close second in terms of speed. Last year's average of 121.41kph in Poland was just four kph off the record set on the stages around Jyväskylä.
Super special aside, the stages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday have broadly similar characters. Largely open and flat with a scattering of crests, the roads sometimes dart in an out of woodland - but the speeds won't come down by much. We struggled to find more than a handful of twisty, technical sections to alter the tempo.
Friday: Open and quick between fields
In general, Friday's stages are on open roads between fields. They are quite wide and are covered in loose gravel - more that last year we reckon - which means plenty of road cleaning if it stays dry. If it's wet (and the latest forecast predicts heavy rain on Friday) then road opener Sébastien Ogier could find himself in the ideal position because under the gravel the soft, sandy base will deteriorate quickly. The jump below in Swietajno (SS4/8) was made famous by a high-flying Ott Tänak last year (watch the video below). It looks very different now after much of the surrounding trees and bushes were cut back.
Saturday: Still fast but narrower
Speed wise, there's not a lot of difference between Friday and Saturday's stages but Saturday's are narrower. There is often a line of grass down the middle (as shown in the main picture from Stañczyki (SS12/14) and the amount of vegetation lining the road is more evident. The grass is up to a metre tall in places which makes it difficult to judge lines through narrow corners. The stage pictured below, Goldap (SS11/16) is typical.
Sunday: Into the forests
Not exclusively, but there are more woodland sections on the final day. This short leg also features the new Sady live TV Power Stage. Organisers created this test by adding a new piece of road to the end of a previous incarnation of Baranowo. The new section is freshly made (it was a small track until a few months ago) and although in perfect condition it features the loosest layer of gravel of the event.