Our ninth update from LOTOS 71st Rally Poland
Only 4.6s separated Hyundai team-mates Juho Hanninen and Thierry Neuville heading into SS18, so there was all to play for in the battle for third place. But Hanninen had been steadily dropping time in the afternoon with a steering wheel that was out of alignment and that meant he was unable to respond to Neuville’s attack from behind. The Belgian took the place after going 8.8s quicker. “The steering wheel is okay if the road is straight, but it’s very frustrating in the slow sections,” Hanninen explained.
Hanninen’s misery continued on the following stage at ‘Goldap 2’ as he was caught and passed by Mikko Hirvonen this time. The M-Sport World Rally Team driver had worked on improving his pace notes after the first run through the 35.17km test earlier in the day and the changes paid off. He was 17.6 quicker than Hanninen to claim his rival’s fourth place. “I’m still in the game,” Hirvonen said positively. “I think I’m going to be watching our stage videos all night to see whether we can turn this into a good weekend.”
Sebastien Ogier’s job at the head of the leaderboard got a whole lot easier when SS19 reached its conclusion. His number one rival for victory, Andreas Mikkelsen, had driven the long gravel stage with barely any brakes on his VW Polo and that meant he dropped a massive 33.7s to his rival. Ogier, by comparison, enjoyed a clean stage and that meant his lead increased to 59.7s. Mikkelsen said: “It’s not easy on a stage as fast as this when you touch the pedal and it goes straight to the floor. It doesn’t give you any confidence.”