Andreas Mikkelsen claimed the lead of PZM 73rd Rally Poland after Friday morning’s opening two speed tests.
Stage info: SS2 / SS3
SS2: Chmielewo 1, 6.52km
Friday morning’s opening test is a mixture of wide and narrow roads but it is fast throughout with several jumps early on. There is loose gravel on the surface but there are also sections that will be muddy if it rains. The first 4.18km are new but the final 2.34km, on wide and fast roads, were used in 2014.
SS3: Wieliczki 1, 17.30km
Sandy and thickly-coated with gravel in places, Wieliczki is fast and flowing from the start. Initially wide, the roads narrow after 4km and the corners become tighter before a short forested section and a finale back on the quick roads. The stage twice jumps across a railway line and tall grass lines the tracks, reducing driver vision.
Mikkelsen, who was second after last night’s curtain-raising test in Mikolajki, was fourth in the short blast through Chmielowo before scoring a comfortable win in the following Wieliczki in his Volkswagen Polo R.
It gave him a 3.6sec advantage over Ott Tänak, who won Chmielowo in a Ford Fiesta RS to put his DMACK team into the lead of a WRC event for the first time.
However, Mikkelsen’s progress wasn’t without a scare. “There was a huge rock in the middle of the road and I tried to hit it with the middle of the car. I was so afraid it was ‘Sardinia 2’ but it seems OK so far,” explained the Norwegian, who was sidelined from the previous round in Italy following a similar incident.
The sandy gravel roads began to deteriorate after the passage of just a handful of cars. “It’s super soft now. We’re carrying two spare wheels and that time is all I can do at the moment,” Tänak said at the finish of Wieliczki.
Hayden Paddon topped the rankings in SS2 and fourth in the following test left the Kiwi in third place in his Hyundai i20, four-tenths of a second behind Tänak. Sébastien Ogier was a further 0.4sec back in fourth, the Frenchman pleasantly surprised by the amount of grip from his position as road opener.
The top six was completed by Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville, Sardinia winner Neuville another to express concern about the conditions.
“I miss power like hell because the road is getting softer and slower. It’s taking away the power and it’s not possible for me to go faster,” said the Belgian.
Dani Sordo dropped a handful of seconds after sliding wide in a fast SS2 corner in his i20, Henning Solberg struggled with an intercom system that only worked intermittently and Craig Breen complained of understeer in his DS 3.