Thursday | 25 Jun 2015

Rally rewind: LOTOS 71st Rally Poland 2014

The World Championship heads to the ultra-fast gravel roads of Poland for round seven (2-5 July) - and an event which last year was an unknown quantity for most teams, having been missing from the calendar for five years. And for some, it came as quite a shock..

Here's our rapid recap of what happened:

Thursday 26 June
Sébastien Ogier continued where he left off after his win in Sardinia – by driving aggressively and pushing as hard as possible through Thursday's three stages. Once again, it was a strategy that paid off. Ogier’s Polo R was fastest on two of the three stages to head the leaderboard by 2.8sec. His VW team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen led after the first two stages but lost the lead on the third. Citroen’s Kris Meeke ended the day third, with Juho Hanninen's Hyundai i20 fourth - the Finn inheriting the place from local hero Robert Kubica who rolled into a ditch on the second stage. Jari-Matti Latvala wasn’t happy with the handling of his Polo R and was uncharacteristically 23.5s off the lead. Two more drivers that suffered were ninth-placed Mikko Hirvonen and tenth-placed Martin Prokop. Hirvonen was lacking confidence in his pace notes and Prokop was nursing a sore back.

Friday 27 June
Ogier saw off a fierce challenge from Mikkelsen to maintain a narrow lead of 0.9sec. The pair battled from the first to the last stage and the rally lead changed hands on four occasions. For once, Ogier’s road position at the head of the pack benefited the Frenchman on stages that cut up very quickly – a problem that prompted organisers to cancel two of the Lithuanian stages in the afternoon. Behind the VW pairing, the battle for the other places was less fierce. Mads Østberg leapt into third place early in the day when the rutted roads became a problem for the drivers running behind him on the road. He ended the day 18.6s behind Mikkelsen, but 12.5s ahead of Latvala who benefited from a high road position and moved up four positions. A frustrated Meeke came home in fifth, losing two places during the day in the ruts he reckoned were a foot deep after only seven cars.

Mikkelsen fought hard to take second place in Poland

Saturday 28 June
Day three was punctuated by a raft of problems for Ogier’s rivals, but the Frenchman used his experience and guile to avoid any dramas, pulling clear to end the day with a 61-second cushion. His closest challenger was once again Mikkelsen, but his charge faltered after the second stage when he spun and lost 10 seconds. His misery was complete when the brakes on his Polo R stopped working on the penultimate stage. The day’s biggest drama unfolded on SS14, the first run through the 35.17km ‘Goldap 1’ test. Meeke, Kubica and Henning Solberg all dropped time when they suffered punctures, while Latvala collected near terminal suspension damage when he clouted a rock. The stage also accounted for Elfyn Evans who retired after damaging his car's suspension, while Østberg joined him on the sidelines when he smashed into the same rock and rolled. When all the dust settled on SS14, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville had fought his way up to an impressive third place while Hirvonen was fourth and Juho Hanninen fifth.

Sunday 28 June
No last day wobbles for Ogier, who sealed a resounding win with fastest time at the rally-ending Power Stage. Mikkelsen finished second, 1m 07s back, while Neuville gave Hyundai's i20 WRC its second podium finish of the year. Hirvonen spent most of the time he wasn’t in his car amending his pace notes to make them faster. It was a strategy that paid off because it allowed him to finish fourth, just 0.7s ahead of the recovering Latvala. Sixth place went to Hyundai’s Hanninen who had a 1m 38s lead over Meeke’s Citroen at the finish line, while New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon claimed eighth.

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Poland Rewind: 2014