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WRC Volkswagen's Ogier and Mikkelsen in control in Poland

LOTOS 71ST RALLY POLAND, June 26-29, 2014
2014 FIA World Rally Championship, round 7

For immediate release
Friday, June 27th, 2014

VOLKSWAGEN’S OGIER AND MIKKELSEN
PULL AWAY AFTER DAY TWO IN POLAND

· Tanak stays in front of Ketomaa to lead WRC 2; Pole Solowow forced out
· Lefebvre heads Tempestini in JWRC; two stages cancelled in Lithuania


MIKOLAJKI (Poland): Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, the defending FIA World Rally Champions, maintained their outright lead after 10 timed special stages of LOTOS 71st Rally Poland on Friday evening.

Despite a fierce challenge from Volkswagen team-mates Andreas Mikkelsen and Ole Floene, Ogier won two of the day’s five specials to carve out a tiny advantage of nine-tenths of a second in the first of three Volkswagen Polo R WRCs.

“Of course I am happy,” said leader Ogier. “I would always take second place after the opening day and to lead at the end of the day after the last stage is even better.”

Norwegian Mads Østberg climbed to third in the first of the works Citroën DS3 WRCs and Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala - despite being disappointed with his own performance in the third Polo - moved ahead of Østberg’s team-mate Kris Meeke and into fourth. A disillusioned Meeke had lost a chunk of time driving through the rutted Lithuanian stages.

Finnish drivers Juho Hänninen and Mikko Hirvonen filled sixth and seventh overall and a spin and a brake fire failed to halt Thierry Neuville’s progress to ninth. Local hero Robert Kubica and Welshman Elfyn Evans were eighth and 10th, although it had been a disappointing opening two days for the Ford team, with the leading three Ford Fiesta R5 WRCs down in seventh, eighth and 10th.

Talented Estonian Ott Tanak increased his WRC 2 lead over Finland’s Jari Ketomaa to 14.9 seconds and held 14th overall behind Kiwi Hayden Paddon, Norwegian Henning Solberg and Czech Martin Prokop.

“I am quite happy with the day, even though there was not too much driving,” said Tanak. “I was able to gain two seconds a stage and that has given me the lead to take into Saturday.”

French driver Stéphane Lebebvre continued to lead the JWRC category in a Citroën DS3 R3T from Romania’s Simone Tempestini.

Repeat runs through two special stages in Lithuania were cancelled on safety grounds after the soft track surface began to rapidly deteriorate and large ruts appeared on the racing line. It meant that competitors only tackled five timed stages on Friday.

Friday – as it happened

All 68 cars were given an official start time and Emirati driver Rashid Al-Ketbi was reseeded in 30th position after leaving the road on stage two. Crews tackled the fourth 12.89km Wieliczki stage in Poland before crossing the border into Lithuania for two new stages to be repeated after a remote service stop in Druskininkai.

Ogier opened the rapid stage with an outright lead of 2.8 seconds over Mikkelsen, but there was some loose gravel on the surface and Ogier dropped 3.2 seconds to his team-mate and the Norwegian snatched the advantage. Hayden Paddon and Robert Kubica were second and third quickest and Tanak extended his WRC 2 lead over Ketomaa to 5.8 seconds.

Ogier made WRC history by starting the first ever special stage in Lithuania and he set the target time of 6min 22sec through a test where there was a lot of loose gravel in the forest sections and ruts soon developed in the soft surface.

The Frenchman pipped Mikkelsen by 0.3sec to reduce the Norwegian’s lead to one-tenth of a second. Østberg overhauled Meeke to snatch third. Missing a braking point and crashing his Ford Fiesta R5 WRC cost Polish driver Michal Solowow over nine minutes and the business magnate was forced to retired with a damaged roll cage.

The second of the Lithuanian stages also deteriorated badly after half a dozen cars had passed. Ogier regained the overall lead with the fastest time, but ruts and soft sand hindered the rest of the field.

“Horrible, dangerous like hell,” said Neuville. “I spun in a very fast corner and could not hold the steering wheel any more.” A disgruntled Latvala climbed above a bewildered Meeke into fourth place and Tanak duly extended his WRC 2 lead over Ketomaa to 14.2 seconds. Lefebvre increased his advantage over Tempestini to 9.9 seconds in the JWRC section.

After a short remote service in the resort town of Druskininkai, the two Lithuanian stages should have been repeated, but the first was cancelled because a number of spectators were positioned in unsafe places and the track surface had badly deteriorated. Race officials took the decision to cancel the eighth stage for the same reasons soon afterwards.

Crews re-crossed the border into Poland and tackled a re-run of the fourth stage before a late-night repeat of the previous evening’s super special stage.

Mikkelsen set the quickest time and regained the outright lead by just one second through the high-speed ninth stage, but Neuville reached the stage finish with a rear brake issue that caused a small fire in the braking system and he slipped behind Kubica. Karl Kruuda rolled out of WRC 2 contention in the latter part of the stage.

The surface of the super special was watered to reduce the risk of dust and a giant crowd witnessed the night action. Ogier set the quickest time to retake a tiny overall lead.

Tomorrow (Saturday), teams tackle 10 timed special stages in the Warmia and Mazury regions of northern Poland, starting with the shorter 6.75km Chmielewo special at 08.00hrs and culminating with a third run through the 2.5km super special in the Mikolajki Arena at 22.00hrs.

The event draws to a conclusion after a further four special stages on Sunday.

LOTOS 71st Rally Poland - positions after SS10:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 47min 22.4sec
2. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ole Floene (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 47min 23.3sec
3. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Citroën DS3 WRC 47min 41.9sec
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 47min 54.4sec
5. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Citroën DS3 WRC 48min 02.4sec
6. Juha Hanninen (FIN)/Tomi Tuominen (FIN) Hyundai i20 WRC 48min 09.2sec
7. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 48min 29.2sec
8. Robert Kubica (POL)/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 48min 38.5sec
9. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC 48min 45.2sec
10. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Daniel Barritt (GBR) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 48min 43.8sec
11. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai i20 WRC 48min 46.6sec
12. Henning Solberg (NOR)/Ilka Minor (AUT) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 48min 50.2sec
13. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 49min 03.3sec
14. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta R5 49min 32.2sec

Ends

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Date issued: 27/06/2014

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