WRC LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland gets underway with super spwcial stage on Thursday evening
LOTOS 72nd RALLY POLAND, July 2-5, 2015
2015 FIA World Rally Championship, round 7
For immediate release
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
LOTOS 72ND RALLY POLAND GETS UNDERWAY WITH
SUPER SPECIAL STAGE ON THURSDAY EVENING
· Volkswagen and Ogier start as favourites to repeat Polish stage success
· Qatar’s Al-Attiyah aims to extend WRC 2 lead; Gilbert looks to break out in WRC 3
MIKOLAJKI (Poland): Months of hard work and meticulous planning will be put to the test when LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland gets underway with a timed super special stage at the Mikolajki Arena from 7pm on Thursday evening.
Ahead of an impressive field of 14 Priority 1 drivers, 30 WRC 2 teams, 13 WRC 3 crews, 12 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy entrants and five additional local crews lie a further 16 timed special stages. These will be held over three days and across high-speed tracks through the Warmia and Mazury areas of northeast Poland. The event finishes in Mikolajki on Sunday afternoon.
The French duo of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are chasing third successive FIA World Rally Championship titles and start as favourites to repeat the Polish win they earned last season. The Volkswagen Polo R WRC driver currently holds a commanding 66-point advantage over Norwegian Mads Østberg in the points’ standings and has led his German team to the brink of another Manufacturers’ triumph.
Sixty-four points separate the Volkswagen team from the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team after six rallies. The Hyundai Shell World Rally Team is a further two points behind and a record four drivers – Hayden Paddon, Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo and Kevin Abbring (JWRC winner in Poland in 2009) - will drive works-supported i20 WRCs for the two registered teams in Poland. Interestingly, neither the Citroën nor M-Sport teams have carried out any official pre-Poland testing.
Ogier is ranked third in the all-time ‘hall of fame’ for the most number of WRC wins (28) and victory in Mazury would push him to within one win of second-placed Finn Marcus Grönholm. Frenchman Sébastien Loeb is way out in front with 78 WRC successes.
While Volkswagen start as favourites to win the event for a second year, Ogier’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala will be hoping for better luck on his 150th WRC start. The Finn suffered the ignominy of retiring on the final stage when the event visited Poland back in 2009 and Latvala needs points quickly if he is to boost his challenge through the second half of the season. He finished fifth last year after early suspension problems, but won five of the last seven special stages.
Thirty teams will do battle for WRC 2 supremacy behind the 14 Priority 1 drivers. Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah holds a three-point championship lead over fellow countryman Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari after six rallies, but his rival is absent from Poland. Al-Attiyah has taken two wins from three starts, but faces a fierce challenge from third-placed Finn Jari Ketomaa and the likes of Stephane Lefebvre, Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Pontus Tidemand.
Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby and Frenchman Quentin Gilbert are tied at the top of the WRC 3 standings, but Veiby is absent from the Polish event and that leaves the door open for Gilbert, driving a Citroën DS3 RST, to move into the outright series lead and extend his advantage in JWRC as well. Fierce rivalry is expected from the Italian duo of Andrea Crugnola and Simone Tempestini.
Polish hopes rest on several sets of impressive shoulders. Leading the home challenge is Robert Kubica at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta WRC. The former F1 driver-turned rally star is more than capable of achieving outright stage wins and is sure to attract a strong following from the thousands of spectators expected to follow the event this weekend.
Veteran Krzysztof Holowczyc will be starting Rally Poland for the 23rd time, this time at the wheel of a Lotto Team Ford Fiesta R5. A podium finisher in the Dakar Rally this year, ‘Holek’ will be aiming to entertain the fans on the way to a finish, but realises that his lack of recent experience at the top level of the WRC will prevent him from challenging for top honours.
Other local drivers to watch in the WRC 2 category include Jaroslaw Koltun, Zbigniew Staniszewski, Hubert Ptaszek and Radoslaw Raczkowski. Maciej Oleksowicz is the only regular Polish Rally Championship driver to compete in the event. He drives a Ford Fiesta R5 and is seeded at 84.
A dozen cars are entered at the rear of the field in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy. Finland’s Max Vatanen leads the six-round series after the opening round in Portugal. The son of Ari - the 1981 World Rally Champion and four-time Dakar Rally winner - has a 10-point lead over Norway’s Marius Aasen heading into what promises to be an action-packed weekend for the youngsters in Ford Fiesta R2s.
Tomorrow (Thursday) is a hectic day for teams in LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland. Crews are permitted to carry out runs through a shakedown stage in the morning and several drivers will then attend the official FIA pre-event press conference in the media centre.
The ceremonial start then takes centre stage in Mikolajki Main Square from 4pm. Teams then tackle the first Mikolajki 2.5km super special stage from 7pm.
2015 FIA World Rally Championship – positions after round 6:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA) 133 pts
2. Mads Østberg (NOR) 67 pts
3. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) 64 pts
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) 56 pts
5. Elfyn Evans (GBR) 53 pts
6. Thierry Neuville (BEL) 50 pts
7. Kris Meeke (GBR) 47 pts
8. Dani Sordo (ESP) 38 pts
9. Hayden Paddon (NZL) 32 pts
10. Martin Prokop (CZE) 27 pts, etc
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 179 pts
2. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 115 pts
3. Hyundai Shell World Rally Team 113 pts
4. M-Sport World Rally Team 99 pts
5. Jipocar Czech National Team 34 pts
6. Hyundai Mobis World Rally Team 31 pts
6. Volkswagen Motorsport II 31 pts
7. F.W.R.T 3 pts