LOTOS 71st Rally Poland on wrc.com
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Thursday afternoon (SS1-3)
Rally Poland got underway with three stages on Thursday afternoon. The first two tests were held on gravel roads inside the Polish forests, while the afternoon’s finale was the 2.5km super special at Mikolajki Arena. The total competitive distance was 34.28km.
The first stage was a disaster for Jari-Matti Latvala. The VW Motorsport driver was 11.6s slower than pacesetter and team-mate Sebastien Ogier through a stage that was only 14.54km long. Ogier said he pushed hard, while Latvala was left ruing his slow start as he was left squandering down in ninth place. “That was quite a bad start,” the Finn admitted. Ogier is driving really, really well. I didn’t have the confidence and I was struggling with the car to be honest. I just couldn’t get the feeling in the car.”
A common theme on the first stage was how loose the gravel road surface was. The conditions were clearly drier than they were on the pre-event recce. That meant nobody was expecting the cars to move around quite as much as they did. Tenth-placed Elfyn Evans said: “That was more loose than I expected. I’m not so much shocked at my time – more surprised by the conditions.”
Leading privateer Martin Prokop was predicting a long and painful rally – after only 14.54km of the event. The Czech driver suffered badly with a sore back at the last round in Sardinia and it reared its head on the opener in Poland. Although he was eighth fastest, he was feeling the strain. “My back was really starting to hurt a lot on the shakedown this morning and it’s painful now. I was trying to avoid the big holes in the road because of my back,” he said.