Ott Tänak eased through Sunday morning’s opening two speed tests to move within touching distance of victory in his Ford Fiesta RS at PZM 73rd Rally Poland.
Stage info: SS18/19
SS18: Baranowo 1, 21.25km
Baranowo is one of the few stages that includes a forested section. It is initially sandy and narrow before entering the trees and becoming even narrower. After 7.6km it joins the 2015 Power Stage route and continues to the finish across open countryside.
SS19: Sady 1, 8.55km
Sady has been heavily modified from 2015 with a new beginning and several sections driven in the reverse direction to last year. Apart from the final few hundred metres it is wide and fast, with thick gravel on the surface. The first kilometre hides a couple of drainage tops on the inside of fast corners and there is a 1km asphalt section in the second half.
Closest challenger Andreas Mikkelsen regained 2.4sec from the Estonian through the opening Baranowo test and a further 0.3sec in the short Sady test that followed. It left the gap between the duo at 18.6sec with just a repeat of the two stages remaining.
Yesterday’s blazing temperatures were a thing of the past. Heavy overnight rain left standing water in places and the grip on the sandy roads was poor in some sections but better than expected in others.
“Everything is looking good,” said Tänak. “The first stage was so tricky and slippery and the car set-up was far too hard. But the grip was much better in the next stage. Now we can make some changes to the car in service. I need to soften it a bit and learn from yesterday.”
Mikkelsen had a clean run in his Volkswagen Polo R. “The set-up is really good. It’s easy to drive and that’s what you’re looking for in these conditions,” said the Norwegiam.
Hayden Paddon was fifth in both stages in his Hyundai i20, the New Zealander believing the set-up was far from ideal. “We have the car pretty soft because I expected it to be really slippery. It’s not that bad though and the car is rolling around,” he explained.
Paddon’s deficit to Mikkelsen rose to 12.9sec and he had 20.0sec in hand over team-mate Thierry Neuville, who lost time when he missed a chicane that caused problems for several drivers. Dani Sordo slammed into the bales there and finished with coolant leaking from the front of his i20.
In worse trouble was Stéphane Lefebvre who spun wildly and the rear of his DS 3 smashed into a tree. The impact broke the rear suspension and he dropped five minutes as he limped to the finish.