Road position benefits Ogier
VW driver continues to lead in Poland as others suffer loss of speed
Friday afternoon (SS9-10)
After a short remote service, the crews should have tackled the same loop of stages that they drove in the morning. But organisers cancelled two of them because of a dramatic road surface deterioration during the first pass. That left two stages to complete, the second run in ‘Wieliczki 2’ and the late night blast around the 2.5km Mikolajki super special.
The battle for the rally lead took another turn on SS9 as Andreas Mikkelsen fired his way past Sebastien Ogier, to take top spot. The Norwegian, who had traded times with his team-mate all morning, drove flat out to set a time that was a massive 2.5s faster than Ogier could manage through the 12.89km test. To put his second run in perspective, he was an incredible nine seconds faster than he was on the first run through the same test earlier in the day. “I honestly don’t think I could have driven any faster,” Mikkelsen said.
The end of SS9 was drama-packed for Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville. He was 32.2s off the pace at the end of the stage and it was clear that something had gone seriously wrong with the rear-left brake caliper on his i20 WRC. The fact that it caught fire while his car was jacked up to inspect the damage, illustrated the severity of the situation. The handbrake on the Belgian’s car had locked on during the stage and that caused a dramatic overheating situation. “The rear brakes are disconnected now, so we should be okay to continue,” Neuville said afterwards.
Drama also befell WRC 2 front-runner, Karl Kruuda, who rolled his Peugeot 208 T16 in SS9. The young Estonian (below) had been nestling in fourth place heading into the test but he hit trouble after the 9.5km split and his day was over. Rival Ott Tanak, who passed Kruuda at the side of the road, said: “It was a very nasty place where he was off but I saw he was okay. These things happen.”