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WRC Ogier edges into slender Rally Poland lead after opening stage

LOTOS 72nd RALLY POLAND, July 2-5, 2015

2015 FIA World Rally Championship, round 7

For immediate release
Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

OGIER SNATCHES SLENDER LEAD AFTER OPENING RALLY POLAND STAGE

· Poland’s Kubica in second place; Mikkelsen slots into third position
· Early WRC 2 lead for Frenchman Lefebvre; Pontus Tidemand in second
· Ogier fastest in Thursday morning’s shakedown stage; Meeke crashes heavily


MIKOLAJKI (Poland): The French duo of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia set the quickest time on the opening 2.5km super special stage of LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland at Mikolajki Arena on Thursday evening. They headed into the overnight halt with a lead of just half a second over the local hero, Robert Kubica, and his co-driver Maciej Szczepaniak.

Leading crews tackled the televised stage in front of a massive crowd and a setting sun and Ogier’s quickest time spoiled a potential party for the home fans and deprived Kubica of the stage win. Andreas Mikkelsen was third, despite clipping a barrier with his Volkswagen Polo R WRC, but Kris Meeke stalled on the start line, lost four seconds and slipped to 17th.

Polish hopes for the weekend rest firmly on Kubica’s shoulders. “As usual I want to do well, but it’s more about me driving well. I am not targeting any position. Instead I would like to get the best driving from what we have and see where that gets us. When it comes to expectations we have to be realistic. We have a smaller budget and a much smaller team than the factory crews.”

Seventh-placed Frenchman Stephane Lefebvre held a lead of one-tenth of a second over Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand in WRC 2, with Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah a second behind in third.

Frenchman Matthieu Margaillan had been the first competitor through the stage in his Citroën DS3 R3T. He ran alone before Abu Dhabi Racing’s Mohamed Al-Mutawee joined the UK’s Osian Price as the first pair into the short timed test. Frenchman Quentin Gilbert was fastest of the WRC 3 runners even though his engine cut out 100 metres from the finish of the stage.

Thousands of fans had braved intense heat at the ceremonial start earlier in the afternoon, where 70 of the original 74 entrants lined up in the centre of Mikolajki. A large group of dignitaries were present, including Jacek Protas, vice-marshal of Warminsko-Mazurskie region, Piotr Jakubowski (Mayor of Mikolajki) and Andrzej Witkowski, president of the Polish Automobile and Motorcycle Federation,

Shakedown success for Ogier

Ogier left it until his third run to set the quickest time of 1min 39.1sec during Thursday morning’s shakedown stage. Poland’s Robert Kubica was the fastest of all the drivers on the first run. He posted a time of 1min 43.5sec and that was 0.8sec inside the time set by Ogier. The Pole was not to be denied on the second run either and an improved time of 1min 41.4sec was sufficient for the Ford Fiesta driver to nip inside the 1min 41.5sec set by both Ogier and Ott Tanak.

But Mikkelsen hit the front on the third run and his time of 1min 40.1sec was four-tenths of a second quicker than the time set by Kubica on his third pass. The Norwegian was in fine form and became the first driver to break through the 1min 40sec barrier with a fourth run of 1min 39.6sec. But Ogier was not to be denied and the Frenchman returned to action with his third run to hit the front with a winning time of 1min 39.1sec.

Kubica and Latvala tied Mikkelsen’s time of 1min 38.6sec to move into joint second and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville finished fifth with a time of 1min 40sec. Citroën’s Kris Meeke rolled late in the session on the first corner of the rutted stage and forced his army of mechanics to work through the afternoon to rebuild his DS3 in time for the start.

“I was just 100 metres into the stage on a flat-left, fourth gear corner. I was on the line and the car launched into the air and rolled,” reflected Meeke. “I had been completely flat through that corner every time before. The ruts were getting bigger but it caught me by surprise and the car went over and landed on the bonnet.”

Friday

Tomorrow (Friday) crews will tackle six special stages, starting with a run through the 13km Gorklo stage at 08.00hrs. This timed special will be repeated in reverse as part of the Paprotki special from noon on Saturday.

Crews will then move on to the Goldap stage, in close proximity to the border with Lithuania and the neighbouring Russian enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast, from 09.50hrs. Then they tackle the 14.65km of Babki on two occasions, the daunting 39.12km of Stanczyki twice and a re-run of Goldap before returning to Mikolajki for a repeat run through the super special stage at 19.05hrs.

Only then will teams be able to visit the service park in Mikolajki before the overnight halt, although there will be remote refuelling and a tyre fitting zone during the course of the day.

LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland - positions after SS1:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1min 43.9sec
2. Robert Kubica (POL)/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1min 44.4sec
3. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ole Floene (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1min 44.5sec
4. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1min 45.4sec
5. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1min 45.9sec
6. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1min 46.3sec
7. Stephane Lefebvre (FRA)/Stéphane Prevot (BEL) Citroën DS3 RRC 1min 46,5sec
8.Pontus Tidemand (SWE)/Emil Axelsson (SWE) Skoda Fabia R5 1min 46.6sec
9. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC 1min 46.7sec
10. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai i20 WRC 1min 46.8sec

Ends

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Date issued: 02/07/2015

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