WRC Volkswagen's Ogier fends off fierce Mikkelsen challenge in Poland
LOTOS 72nd RALLY POLAND, July 2-5, 2015
2015 FIA World Rally Championship, round 7
For immediate release
Saturday, July 4th, 2015
VOLKSWAGEN’S OGIER FENDS OFF FIERCE MIKKELSEN CHALLENGE IN POLAND
· M-Sport’s Ott Tanak breaks Volkswagen’s stranglehold with third place
· Finland’s Esapekka Lappi maintains WRC 2 lead; Tidemand in a solid second
· Simone Tempestiini benefits from Osian Pryce’s woes to snatch WRC 3 lead
MIKOLAJKI (Poland): Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sébastien Ogier produced one of the best day’s performances of the season to maintain his lead after 17 special stages of LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland on Saturday.
Despite opening the road with co-driver Julien Ingrassia for a second successive day, the Frenchman delivered a masterful display of car control and strategy to win three of the day’s seven stages (SS14 was cancelled) and reach the overnight halt 5.6 seconds ahead of Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen.
His closest VW counterpart would not go away, however, and Mikkelsen is still within touching distance of his first ever WRC win with two stages remaining. The Norwegian won one stage and kept up the relentless pressure on the defending World Champion to guarantee a grandstand finish on Sunday.
“I am extremely satisfied,” said Ogier. “No mistakes and I drove on the limit. The tyre strategy worked well, but there are still two stages to go and the gap is still very small. We have been opening the rally since the beginning and must continue the fight tomorrow. It will be exciting to the end.”
Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala could not find the pace he needed to match his two Volkswagen colleagues and came under increasing pressure from Estonian driver Ott Tanak in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS. Tanak delivered his own superb performance and three stage wins ensured that the youngster finished the day in a superb third overall – 1.5 seconds in front of Latvala - after he crushed all three Polo drivers on the penultimate stage of the day.
Hayden Paddon was consistently the quickest of the four works Hyundai drivers and the Kiwi claimed fifth position, finishing the day 19.4 seconds in front of team-mate Thierry Neuville. Poland’s Robert Kubica stayed out of trouble and maintained a consistent pace to hold seventh, ahead of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo of Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg. Hyundai’s Dani Sordo rounded off the top 10.
Flying Finn Esapekka Lappi controlled his pace to stay ahead of fellow Skoda Fabia R5 driver Pontus Tidemand in WRC 2. Lappi takes a comfortable lead of 37.7 seconds into the final day, while Karl Kruuda holds third. “The target is to stay safe and bring the car home safely to the finish,” said Lappi.
Italian Simone Tempestini benefited from penultimate stage engine misfiring woes for Osian Price to snatch the WRC 3 lead. Price lost nearly a minute and a half and slipped to second, with Finland’s Henri Haapamaki in third. Clutch issues ruined Quentin Gilbert’s challenge on Saturday morning.
Saturday – as it happened
Five cars graced the official list of retirements and 65 of the original 70 starters tackled the opening 17.70km of the Mazury stage. Massive crowds were present to watch Ogier lay down the gauntlet with a time of 8min 54.9sec.
Both Mikkelsen and Latvala complained that hanging dust had cost them time and Mikkelsen even opined that the organisers should introduce a three-minute gap between the leading cars to alleviate the dust issue. Tanak suffered a small spin and set the fourth quickest time. Only Paddon could get anywhere near Ogier, who extended his lead to 5.1 seconds with his 350th WRC career stage win.
Lappi noticeably eased his pace in the lead WRC 2 Skoda and Tidemand maintained second, but Karl Kruuda began to nibble into the Swede’s hold on second spot with the fastest time. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah had wrecked his WRC 2 chances on Friday and tackled the opening two stages purely as a test before returning to Mikolajki.
Pryce retained his WRC 3 advantage, although Gilbert and Tempestini had overcome Friday’s respective gearbox and power steering issues and were second and third. Tempestini pipped Pryce to the stage win, but Gilbert suffered clutch woes, lost over seven minutes and his chance of succeeding in WRC 3.
The first pass through Wieliczki followed, but a water pump issue sidelined Welshman Elfyn Evans on the road section. Rally officials introduced a three-minute gap to alleviate dust issues and Ogier admitted that it could play into his rivals’ hands. The Frenchman carded a time of 6min 10.7sec and ceded 2.8 seconds to a much happier Mikkelsen.
Tanak set the quickest time and closed to within 3.7 seconds of Latvala in third place. “Really fast and not many corners. I just do my best on each stage and see where it goes,” said Tanak.
Tidemand won his second successive WRC 2 stage, but Lappi was measuring his pace perfectly and remained 44.5 seconds in front of the Swede heading to the 21.25km of Swietajno. Despite running first on the road, Ogier continued to surprise with his pace and extended his lead over Mikkelsen to 3.1 seconds. Tanak was again quickest and closed to within 2.1 seconds of Latvala in third.
Dutchman Kevin Abbring damaged the front end of his Hyundai after leaving the road and landing in a bush on a flat crest that should have involved a right instruction. He was fortunate to lose only 25 seconds. Tidemand reduced Lappi’s WRC 2 lead to 39.6 seconds with another quickest time and Pryce continued to pull away from Tempestini in WRC 3.
Paprotki was the last stage before the return to Mikolajki for service and featured a live television broadcast. A section had been run in reverse on Friday and Ogier was in flying form to card a time of 11min 11.7sec. That was sufficient for the Volkswagen driver to reach service 7.2 seconds in front of Mikkelsen.
Tanak was second quickest and managed to sneak past a despondent Latvala by one tenth of a second and steal third, but Abbring was caught out by some stones in a village and slid off the road for over three minutes. Tidemand continued to nibble into Lappi’s WRC 2 lead and the gap was reduced to 36.2 seconds.
The second Mazury stage was cancelled on safety grounds, because of the sheer number of spectators near the start of the special, and crews took an alternative route through heavy traffic to Wieliczki. The stage began after an eight-minute delay and Ogier shaved seven seconds off his morning’s time, only to see Mikkelsen reduce his lead to 5.8 seconds. Latvala regained third after beating Tanak by 0.6 seconds.
Lappi was happier with his softer compound tyres and he put an end to Tidemand’s string of fastest times to extend his WRC 2 lead to 38.1 seconds.
Ogier stayed clear of trouble through Swietajno 2 to record a time of 10min 09.2sec. Mikkelsen and Latvala shaved a further 1.1 seconds off his lead and the former headed to the super special at Mikolajki Arena just 4.7 seconds behind the leading Frenchman. “So much dust in there. I was not expecting that with the three-minute interval,” said Andreas. “I took some risks in the dust. Maybe that was my last chance.”
Tanak drove flat out to secure another stage win in emphatic style and that was sufficient for the Estonian to break Volkswagen’s domination of the podium and regain third place by 2.4 seconds. Lappi complained about the lack of visibility in the dust in the forests, but the Finn still managed to keep Tidemand at bay and maintain his WRC 2 lead into the super special stage and the overnight halt.
Tomorrow (Sunday), only two runs through the Baranowo special stage are planned. Crews will tackle the 14km special from 09.10hrs and then head into a regroup before repeating the televised special as the event’s designated Power Stage from midday. The podium and finishing ceremony is planned for the main square in Mikolajki from 14.00hrs.
LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland - positions after SS17:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 2hr 12min 23.2sec
2. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ole Floene (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 2hr 12min 28.8sec
3. Ott Tanak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2hr 12min 40.8sec
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 2hr 12min 42.3sec
5. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai i20 WRC 2hr 13min 18.9sec
6. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC 2hr 13min 38.3sec
7. Robert Kubica (POL)/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2hr 13min 52.4sec
8. Kris Meeke (GBR)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Citroën DS3 WRC 2hr 14min 02.6sec
9. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Jonas Andersson (SWE) Citroën DS3 WRC 2hr 14min 19.2sec
10. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai i20 WRC 2hr 14min 40.3sec
11. Martin Prokop (CZE)/Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 2hr 16min 24.3sec
12. Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) Skoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2) 2hr 17min 18.7sec