WRC Ogier and Ingrassia hold slender Rally Poland lead after three stages
LOTOS 71ST RALLY POLAND, June 26-29, 2014
2014 FIA World Rally Championship, round 7
For immediate release
Thursday, June 26th, 2014
OGIER AND INGRASSIA HOLD SLENDER RALLY POLAND LEAD AFTER THREE STAGES
· Early WRC 2 advantage for Estonian Ott Tanak; Finn Jari Ketomaa in second
· JWRC lead for Frenchman Lefebvre after SS2; Pole Kubica rolls; Emirati Al-Ketbi off
MIKOLAJKI (Poland): The French duo of Sébastien Ogier and Julian Ingrassia were the early leaders of LOTOS 71st Rally Poland after three timed special stages on Thursday evening.
The Volkswagen Polo R WRC duo held a 2.8-second advantage over Andreas Mikkelsen, with Kris Meeke claiming third position for Citroën. Finland’s Juho Hänninen stormed into fourth place and Norwegian Mads Ostberg was fifth.
“The sun was down and I was pushing hard on the last stage to get the lead„” said Ogier. “I am very happy with my start to the rally. I could not do anything better until now. We are going to have to continue at this very high level.”
Talented Estonian Ott Tanak snatched a 3.9 second overnight lead from Finland’s Jari Ketomaa in the WRC 2 section and Frenchman Stéphane Lebebvre led the JWRC category in a Citroën DS3 R3T from Romania’s Simone Tempestini after two stages.
“It was a good start for me, but there was a lot of dust on the super special and it was not easy to see anything with the sun so low and setting,” said Tanak.
Sixty-eight cars, including 15 World Rally Cars and 15 WRC 2 entrants, were flagged away from the start in the centre of Mikolajki and headed straight into a pair of fast gravel tests. These preceded the first of four runs through a purpose-built super special stage at the Mikolajki Arena.
A large group of dignitaries at the ceremonial start included Andrzej Witkowski, president of the Polish Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, Tomasz Polgrabski, vice-minister of Sport and Tourism, and Professor Michal Kleiber, president of the Polish Academy of Science.
Defending World Champion Ogier posted the target time of 6min 54sec through the high-speed opening Milki stage and moved into a 0.5sec advantage over team-mate Mikkelsen. Shakedown winner Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen struggled to find a fast rhythm and slipped behind the leading duo, but it was a good start for Kris Meeke and Robert Kubica in third and fourth. Stage conditions were more slippery than drivers had expected and sizeable gaps appeared amongst the top 15 WRC drivers.
Ott Tanak drew first blood from Jari Ketomaa in WRC 2 and headed to the second Kruklanki stage with an advantage of 3.9sec. Nicolas Fuchs stopped in the stage with low fuel pressure and managed to continue with the loss of over one minute.
Stage two featured slightly looser gravel than the opener and Ogier expected to lose a little time. He posted the target of 9min 06.8sec and continued to pull away from a struggling Latvala. Ostberg was on Ogier’s pace and Mikkelsen set a faster time to take an outright lead of 0.4sec. Elfyn Evans survived an overshoot into a field and the stage win fell to a delighted Juho Hänninen in the ever-improving Hyundai.
Local hero Kubica, who hit trouble early in the stage, said: ”Braking over crest and the crest was bigger than we expected and we rolled. I try to recover but we rolled. We had to ask spectators to put us back on our wheels.” Remarkably, the former Formula One racer only lost around 28 seconds.
Tanak continued to lead from Ketomaa in WRC 2 through he second stage, but the UAE’s Rashid Al-Ketbi slid into a ditch and was not able to continue.
The first run through the 2.5km super special stage in front of a giant crowd at Mikolajki Arena brought the day’s competition to a close, although a setting sun and dusty conditions hampered progress and Ogier set the fastest time to snatch the outright lead.
Tomorrow (Friday), history will be made in the FIA World Rally Championship when the route of LOTOS 71st Rally Poland enters the Baltic state of Lithuania for the first time.
There will be seven timed special stages in Friday’s timetable – four of which will take place in neighbouring Lithuania. Two runs through the Kapciamiestis stage and the Margionys special will be split by a remote service stop at the picturesque resort town of Druskininkai. Race officials have been forced to shorten the longer Kapciamiestis stage from 26.61km to 12.92km in Lithuania because of recent heavy rain in the area.
The Lithuanian stages are preceded by a run through the Wieliczki special in Poland and this 12.89km stage is repeated on Friday evening when teams re-cross the border into Poland. A hectic day’s action is rounded off by a second run through the 2.50km super special stage at the Mikolajki Arena late on Friday evening.
LOTOS 71st Rally Poland - positions after SS3:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julian Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 17min 49.2sec
2. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ole Floene (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 17min 52.0sec
3. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Citroën DS3 WRC 17min 56.2sec
4. Juha Hanninen (FIN)/Tomi Tuominen (FIN) Hyundai i20 WRC 17min 57.0sec
5. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Citroën DS3 WRC 17min 58.1sec
6. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC 18min 10.3sec
7. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai i20 WRC 18min 12.4sec
8. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 18min 12.7sec
9. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 18min 18.6sec
10. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 18min 20.2sec
11. Henning Solberg (NOR)/Ilka Minor (AUT) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 18min 26.3sec
12. Robert Kubica (POL)/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 18min 26.5sec
13. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Daniel Barritt (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 18min 27.5sec
14. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta R5 18min 31.4sec