Ott Tänak more than doubled his PZM 73rd Rally Poland lead over Andreas Mikkelsen with a crushing win in Saturday morning’s opening speed test.
Stage info: SS11
Goldap 1, 14.75km
Frequent surface changes make Goldap a tough challenge as the road switches between gravel and asphalt on several occasions. It is narrow, open and fast with plenty of loose gravel and the characteristics are different to the previous day’s tests – still fast, but not as wide. The final kilometre runs alongside buildings.
Tänak opted for DMACK’s hard compound tyres on his Ford Fiesta RS and the choice paid dividends as he sped to quickest time through the loose roads of the Goldap stage, in the far north of Poland.
He was fastest by 4.2sec from Hayden Paddon with Andreas Mikkelsen 6.7sec adrift in third, increasing his overnight lead from 4.2sec to 10.9sec.
The roads were more technical than those encountered further south yesterday and thick gravel on the surface offered an advantage to those drivers lower down the start order.
“I could see there was a lot of cleaning which is good for us and I had a perfect stage. We have hard tyres on the car and at the moment at least it’s working for us,” said Tänak.
Mikkelsen is third in the running order, five places higher than Tänak, and the Norwegian was realistic about the problems it posed. “I tried to drive as fast as I could but there was so much cleaning that it’s difficult. It’s not human to be able to challenge Tänak here,” he said.
Paddon closed to within 3.5sec of Mikkelsen, the New Zealander boosted by a better handling Hyundai i20. “We made changes last night and the car is just as I like it. It’s just the driver that’s a bit off form this morning!” he said.
Road opener Sébastien Ogier suffered most in the loose conditions. The Frenchman was ninth in his Volkswagen Polo R and dropped behind Thierry Neuville to fifth in the standings. Neuville felt his pace notes were too slow for the lightning quick roads.