Ott Tänak completed a clean sweep of stage victories at PZM 73rd Rally Poland on Saturday morning to distance himself from Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon.
Stage info: SS12/13
SS12: Stanczyki 1, 25.27km
This is the longest and most picturesque stage of the rally. It runs in a hilly area rich in open spaces and spectacular views, with plenty of undulating sections. There is a mix of narrow and wide roads which pass several lakes and it is rougher than the opening day tests. It has been heavily revised from last year, with some parts driven in the opposite direction to 2015.
SS13: Babki 1, 21.02km
Babki runs close to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and is fast and varied. The first 8km are new on narrow, technical roads with a constantly changing surface. The rest of the route runs in the opposite direction to 2015, using wider roads with a couple of big jumps.
After winning the opening Goldap, Tänak topped the times in the longer Stanczyki and Babki tests to reach the mid-leg tyre change zone with an 18.0sec lead in his Ford Fiesta RS.
“The surface on the previous stage was soft but this one was harder and our tyres worked well. It’s far too early to think about Sunday afternoon’s finish. These are proper stages and the speeds are high so the concentration needs to be as high as possible,” he said.
Mikkelsen was second and third in the two tests to head Paddon by 6.9sec, but the Norwegian’s frustrations with the loose surface were obvious.
“I was at the maximum everywhere. I couldn’t go faster, not one bit. We have to take big risks to fight at the top if we want to – and we want to. The lines are getting cleaner and cleaner with every car. We have a good set-up so let’s see if it’s the same in the second loop because that’s where we struggled yesterday,” said the Volkswagen Polo R driver.
Third and fifth fastest ensured Paddon kept the pressure on but it was quite ragged from the New Zealander. “The car was moving a lot and I’m trying to keep it tidy, but that’s something I haven’t mastered yet. We’re over-driving and hanging out in ditches too much,” he said.
Thierry Neuville broke his Hyundai i20’s gear lever which fell into the footwell. The Belgian was fourth while Jari-Matti Latvala climbed to fifth despite overshooting a junction and stalling his Polo’s engine. However, the Finn was happier with his speed today.
In contrast, team-mate Sébastien Ogier described the morning as ‘a disaster’. Enduring the worst of the loose sandy conditions, he dropped to sixth 0.2sec behind Latvala and 3.8sec ahead of Stéphane Lefebvre, who was second fastest in Babki.
Craig Breen, Eric Camilli and Mads Østberg completed the leaderboard.