The Lotos 71st Rally Poland could be the fastest event of the 2014 season, according to some of the leading WRC drivers.
The seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship gets underway this afternoon in the Masurian lake district and has been absent from the WRC calendar since 2009.
The crews therefore had to learn the stages from scratch during the pre-event recce and their overriding impression was that the speed on the gravel stages will rival those in Finland – traditionally the fastest rally on the WRC calendar.
“It’s going to be extremely fast,” M-Sport World Rally Team driver Mikko Hirvonen said. “The Finland stages are technical but that’s not so much the case here. Some of the stages will be completely flat out so it will be down to who has the strongest engine.”
Citroen’s Kris Meeke said one of the biggest challenges the crews face will be judging how fast they can drive against the pace notes they wrote during the recce.
“We’re going to be on the limiter at more than 200kmh in some places and it’s very hard to judge what speed you’ll be arriving at corners because we’re limited to 70kmh during the recce,” the 34-year-old explained. “That will make it interesting on the pace notes. We’ll need to have our wits about us.”
The WRC crews also expect the sandy nature of the roads to present a significant challenge in Poland – especially on the second pass through the stages.
Hyundai’s Juho Hanninen said: “There was some rain during the recce and the roads in the forests were extremely muddy. They will take a long time to dry because there are no ditches and the water has to go through the sand. The second pass will be very rutted and difficult, particularly on the faster sections.”
Wet weather and a subsequent deterioration of the road surface has forced rally organisers to shorten the fifth and seventh stage in Lithuania. The test will now measure 12.92km on the second day, rather than the intended 26.61km.