Thursday | 07 Jul 2016

Poland driver report: part 2

Our second batch of driver summaries following last weekend's PZM 73rd Rally Poland.

Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20) Result: Retired
Heading to the rally second in the championship meant Sordo [above] endured two days of serious road sweeping. He didn't complain much, but despite a clean run, and his apparent enjoyment of the stages, the times just weren't there and by the end of day two he was languishing in 11th. He did well to keep going at all after bowling over a trio of 450kg hay bales on Sunday morning, but it was all over on the next stage when he clouted a bank and broke his car's rear suspension. Sordo's first retirement of the season drops him to fifth in the standings but, on the plus side, he should enjoy a better start position in Finland.
Eric Camilli (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: 9th
Again under strict instructions from M-Sport to finish the rally, Camilli can put another tick in the box here - even though a final day mistake meant it wasn't a completely clean run. This was the Frenchman's first time in Poland, and only the 13th gravel rally of his career, so gaining knowledge for the future was his primary objective. It took a while to adjust his pacenotes to the high-speed stages but he regularly had the edge over his more experienced team-mate Mads Østberg. Camilli was all set to beat him on Sunday too, until he slid wide and clipped a tree stump after the flying finish on the penultimate stage. He slipped behind Østberg after driving the last test with two-wheel-drive only.

Stéphane Lefebvre (DS 3) Result: 12th
Lefebvre's rally had a lot in common with Camilli's - in that it was looking rather good until Sunday. In fact, it was looking extremely good on Saturday, when Stéphane collected the first stage win of his career and pulled ahead of team-mate Craig Breen. But that all changed on Sunday's first pass through the Power Stage when, live on WRC+, Lefebvre took a corner too fast and ricocheted  off a tree. Breen was gifted seventh and Lefebvre's rally looked over. Except it wasn't. He somehow made it back to service, dragging a (legally spinning) left-rear wheel and bumper and went on to finish 12th. Bravo!
Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Polo R) Result: 5th
In Latvala's own words: "Sometimes you have those days when things don't go as planned." And that, pretty much, was his experience on the opening two days. They just didn't happen for him. Despite a decent position in the start order, by SS9 he was more than 30sec off the pace and at a loss to explain why. "No feeling for the driving and I don't understand it. I am not together with the car. I have no words," he said. Then, on SS16, he roared back with a fastest time and a clearer head. He bagged another fastest time on Sunday and two bonus points on the Power Stage. Another unpredictable performance from the Finn.

Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20) Result: 3rd
Third was a solid bounce back for Paddon after the double disappointment of retirements in Sardinia and Portugal. The Kiwi had his best day on Friday and claimed three stage wins to lay his claim on the final podium spot. Having ruled out a charge for the lead, he spent the final day keeping track of his hard-charging team-mate Thierry Neuville - and very nearly miscalculated. Finishing just 0.8sec ahead was, he conceded, too close for comfort. 
Ott Tänak (Ford Fiesta RS) Result: 2nd
Tantalisingly close to a first WRC victory, instead Tänak made headlines for all the wrong reasons. His 2015 form suggested he would do well in Poland, and he duly delivered, making the most of his start position to put the DMACK team on the cusp of a landmark win. It would have been a hugely popular and well-deserved victory too - which made it even worse when a penultimate stage puncture dropped him to second. His eleventh hour unravelling was hard to watch, and even a hardened pro like Sébastien Ogier was moved to offer consolation. A few hours later, Tänak could accept the positives from an otherwise terrific weekend and was talking about payback. Finland, maybe?


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