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WRC Volkswagen's Ogier and Ingrassia close in on maiden Rally Poland win

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

For immediate release
Saturday, June 28th, 2014

VOLKSWAGEN’S OGIER AND INGRASSIA CLOSE
IN ON MAIDEN VICTORY IN RALLY POLAND

· Mikkelsen in comfortable second position; Belgian Neuville in third
· Ott Tanak stays well clear of Jari Ketomaa in WRC 2 contest
· Lefebvre stays ahead of Fisher in JWRC; Kubica, Østberg and Evans out


MIKOLAJKI (Poland): Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia applied the pressure on the third day of LOTOS 71st Rally Poland. The French duo completed 20 of the 24 timed special stages with an overall advantage of 1min 01.8sec in the first of three Volkswagen Polo R WRCs classified in the top six.

Andreas Mikkelsen pushed as hard as he dared over the early stages on Saturday, but it was a bridge too far for the Norwegian to stop the defending World Champion pulling away. After losing further time with brake issues on the penultimate stage, Mikkelsen’s consolation was a vice-like grip on second position in his Polo.

“I am sure that the others will push a little tomorrow, so all I can do now is make no mistakes and go for the finish,” said championship leader Ogier. “The weather could be bad tonight and that may make it tricky in the morning.”

There was a fascinating tussle for the final podium slot between the Hyundai drivers, Juha Hanninen and Thierry Neuville, and Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen, once Norwegian Mads Østberg had rolled his Citroën DS3 WRC out of contention.. Neuville held the upper hand over the closing stages and reached the overnight halt 10.7sec in front of fourth-placed Mikko Hirvonen.

Jari-Matti Latvala suffered a cruel suspension breakage on the first loop and faced an afternoon fight back through the field to reach the overnight halt in sixth position, a mere 0,4sec behind Hänninen.

Kiwi Haydon Paddon was seventh and Kris Meeke put a time-consuming puncture to the back of his mind and tried to chase down eighth-placed Norwegian Henning Solberg. Czech Martin Prokop rounded off the top 10.

Talented Estonian Ott Tanak increased his WRC 2 lead over Finland’s Jari Ketomaa throughout the day and the 11th–placed driver headed his fellow DMACK rival by 1min 29.1sec. Martin Kangur was running in a distant third place before he shed a wheel in SS16 and handed his position to Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi.

French driver Stéphane Lebebvre extended his JWRC category in a Citroën DS3 R3T. Romania’s Simone Tempestini stopped in the 12th stage and Ulsterman Alastair Fisher took up the fight in second position.

Saturday – as it happened

Sixty-six of the original 68 entrants were permitted to start Saturday’s 10 special stages in Poland and local hero Krzysztof Holowczyc was first on the road through the 6.75km of the Chmielewo special. The leading duo were again the class of the field and Mikkelsen managed to shade the stage by 0.4sec and reduce Ogier’s lead to half a second. Despite Latvala’s renewed enthusiasm and confidence, Østberg beat his Finnish rival to tighten his grip on third.

Tanak hinted that DMACK team orders may have been issued in the fight for WRC 2 honours and the Estonian extended his advantage over Ketomaa to 18.3sec. The Finn was already one and a half minutes in front of third-placed Kangur.

Østberg had begun a morning charge and, when Ogier survived a high-speed moment in sixth gear and Mikkelsen make a mistake early in the Stare Juchy stage and could not select reverse gear, the Norwegian found himself in contention for the top of the podium.

Ogier headed for the 13th Babki stage with an outright lead of 10.1sec and Østberg moved to within 9.7sec of Mikkelsen. Tanak extended his WRC 2 lead to 22.3sec, while Lefebrve found himself 41.4sec clear of Fisher in JWRC after early rival Simone Tempestini stopped and Martin Koci collected a puncture.

Running first on the road has its disadvantages as Holowczyc found to his cost when he destroyed his Ford Fiesta after a high-speed roll early in the Babki stage. It was back to business as usual at the head of the field and a fastest time for Ogier was enough for the Frenchman to extend his lead over Mikkelsen to 14.2sec. The Norwegian also discovered that he had been fined 5,000 EUR for a route violation on the second stage and would run the risk of exclusion if he repeated the offence this season. Gaps were beginning to appear between drivers in the top 10 and Østberg strengthened his hold on third.

The gruelling 35.17km of the Goldap stage was next on the agenda and Martin Prokop was given the unenviable task of opening the road. But the drama unfolded behind the Czech driver: Evans left the track and damaged a lower front suspension link near the stage finish, while Kubica was waved to a standstill, lost his concentration and collected a puncture.

Meeke was passed by Latvala - after collecting a flat tyre when he left the track - and then Latvala hit a large rock himself and the front suspension damper punched a hole through the bonnet of his Volkswagen. Meeke’s delay pushed him down from fifth to 11th overall, but Latvala was faced with a race against time to repair his Polo before the 77km road liaison to the 15th stage at Baranowo.

“We see Kris in the stage and he had a puncture and we were in a long, left hand corner and we hit a rock really hard and the damper came through the bonnet,” reflected Latvala.

The carnage did not stop there and Østberg stopped near the stage finish after hitting a rock and rolling his Citroën with damage to the roll cage preventing a restart on Sunday. Ogier then lost time at the scene of the Norwegian’s accident and ceded his lead to Mikkelsen, pending an official decision about time losses. The decision was made before the start of Baranowo and Ogier was duly handed the fastest time through SS15 and moved back into a lead of 16.7sec.

The Volkswagen pair were now in dominant form and, even though Ogier extended his lead over his young Norwegian rival to 19 seconds in Baranowo, Mikkelsen found himself 1min 33sec ahead of third-placed Hänninen.

Temporary repairs to the front suspension had been sufficient for Latvala to survive the special and make it back to service in Mikolajki, but the Finn dropped one and a half minutes in the process and plummeted from third to seventh. Neuville, Hirvonen and Kubica climbed to fourth, fifth and sixth overall.

Ogier’s lead grew to 19.3sec through the re-run of Chmielewo and Hirvonen closed to within one second of Neuville in fourth. Meeke began to question Prokop’s ownership of 10th position, but Kangur lost third in WRC 2 - behind Tanak and Ketomaa - when he shed a wheel a mere 800 metres into the stage. His demise promoted Al-Rajhi to third.

Neuville was quickest through SS17 to close within 4.6sec of Hänninen in third and pull 5.7sec clear of fifth-placed Hirvonen. Ogier shadowed the Belgian, setting the same time as Latvala in the process, and increased his lead over a resigned Mikkelsen to 22.8sec. In WRC 2, Tanak’s advantage over Ketomaa grew to 1min 13.7sec.

Latvala was on a charge and, as rain began to fall for the first time in Babki, the Finn set his first fastest time and began to close in on Hirvonen. Ogier’s lead over Mikkelsen grew to 26.0sec and Hänninen was displaced by Neuville for third overall.

Heavy rain had soaked the surface of the Goldap special, but Latvala was on a charge and a second successive stage win lifted the Finn to within 1.5 seconds of Hänninen’s fifth position. A lack of brakes cost Mikkelsen dearly and Ogier was able to extend his advantage to 59.7sec, as Neuville settled into third and moved 10.1sec in front of Hirvonen. A broken radiator cost Rashid Al-Ketbi his place in the WRC 2 rankings.

Ogier set the quickest time in the third run through the super special, held in the dark at the Mikolajki Arena, and extended his lead to over one minute for the first time.

Tomorrow (Sunday), a further four special stages bring the event to a conclusion in Mikolajki. Teams tackle a repeat of Thursday evening’s Milki stage and a second run through Krublanki precedes a regroup. The fourth and final pass through the super special at the Mikolajki Arena is next in the timetable and is a warm-up for the all-important televised Power Stage at Baranowo.

LOTOS 71st Rally Poland - positions after SS20:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 2hr 08min 47.3sec
2. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ole Floene (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 2hr 09min 49.1sec
3. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC 2hr 11min 07.8sec
4. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2hr 11min 18.5sec
5. Juha Hänninen (FIN)/Tomi Tuominen (FIN) Hyundai i20 WRC 2hr 11min 32.5sec
6. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 2hr 11min 32.9sec
7. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai i20 WRC 2hr 12min 57.6sec
8. Henning Solberg (NOR)/Ilka Minor (AUT) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 2hr 13min 16.8sec
9. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Citroën DS3 WRC 2hr 13min 20.3sec
10. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 WRC 2hr 14min 05.9sec
11. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta R5 2hr 15min 40.9sec
12. Jari Ketomaa (FIN)/Kaj Lindström (FIN) Ford Fiesta R5 2hr 17min 10.0sec

Ends

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Date issued: 28/06/2014

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