WRC PZM 73rd Rally Poland gets underway in Mikolajki on Thursday afternoon
PZM 73rd RALLY POLAND, July 1-3, 2016
2016 FIA World Rally Championship, round 7
For immediate release
Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
PZM 73RD RALLY POLAND GETS UNDERWAY ON THURSDAY AFTERNOON
· World Champion Ogier has record for number of Polish stage wins
· Welshman Elfyn Evans faces fierce WRC 2 competition in Poland
MIKOLAJKI (Poland): Poland’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship gets underway in Mikolajki on Thursday afternoon. Sixty-seven crews face the first of 21 special stages on Thursday evening on an event that finishes in Mikolajki on Sunday afternoon.
The Polish event was included the WRC calendar for the first time in 1973 and then returned in 2009. Of the 59 special stages that have been run in the WRC since Poland’s return - including two in Lithuania in 2014 - three-time World Champion and top seed Sébastien Ogier has won 19 to Jari-Matti Latvala’s nine.
Five drivers have taken part in the three previous editions of the event since 2009. All three Volkswagen drivers, Ogier, Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, in addition to Hyundai’s Dani Sordo and M-Sport’s Mads Østberg.
The M-Sport World Rally Team has left nothing to chance in its quest for honours in Poland. Norwegian Østberg and Frenchman Eric Camilli carried out a comprehensive test in the Orzysz and Pasym regions last week and Camilli and navigator Benjamin Veillas will be hoping that helps them get the ideal set-up for their Polish debut.
Østberg is keen to return to high-speed stages after several slower events, but admits that the rally has not been kind to him in the past. “My speed has been there and we are well prepared this year. The podium is always the aim, but the stages are not without their obstacles. I see no reason why we can’t be setting stage-winning pace.”
The Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team has entered two young drivers in Poland, with Stéphane Lefebvre and Craig Breen flying the flag for the Citroën brand in their development year. Both drivers took part in physical training sessions at the start of the week and a test session on Monday and PH Sport technicians have used data collected from 2014 and 2015 to help them arrive at the correct set-up for the stages.
“It’s been a long time since Rally Sweden, but I kept myself busy by winning the Circuit of Ireland in the ERC and taking part in testing for the 2017 WRC,” said Breen. “I only competed here once before, back in 2013, as part of the European Rally Championship. It rained the whole weekend and many stages were cancelled, so I didn’t really get anything out of it. The trees are so close to the road that the slightest error can be extremely costly.”
WRC 2 has been an exciting battleground so far this season, despite the fact that Welshman Elfyn Evans won the opening two rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden in his Ford Fiesta and appeared to be running away with the championship.
His rivals have since regrouped, with Finland’s talented Teemu Suninen winning the category in Mexico and Sardinia, Peruvian driver Nicholas Fuchs snatching maximum points in Argentina and Pontus Tidemand claiming a full haul in Portugal.
It means that Evans arrives in Mikolajki with 62 points and is closely followed by Fuchs on 57, Suninen on 50, Tidemand on 43 and Poland’s Hubert Ptaszek on 42 and determined to put on a good performance in front of his home fans.
Thursday’s hectic timetable gets underway with the traditional 3.38km shakedown stage at Lubiewo from 08.00hrs. This marks the last opportunity for teams to finalise their car’s set-up for the high-speed special stages before the ceremonial start takes centre stage in Mikolajki’s main square from 16.00hrs.
The competitive action gets underway at 19.08hrs on Thursday evening with the first of three runs this weekend through the popular 2.5km Mikolajki Arena special stage. Ogier holds the record for the fastest time on this timed test, set on July 2nd, 2015, with a time of 1min 43.9sec. Poland’s former Formula One star Robert Kubica has the second quickest time to his name.
The bulk of the action then takes place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the Warmia and Mazuria areas over a total competitive distance of 306.19km.
PZM 73rd Rally Poland – leading starters:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
3. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai New i20 WRC
4. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai New i20 WRC
5. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
6. Eric Camilli (FRA)/Benjamin Veillas (FRA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
7. Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA)/Gabin Moreau (FRA) Citroën DS3 WRC
8. Craig Breen (IRL)/Scott Martin (GBR) Citroën DS3 WRC
9. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Anders Jaeger (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC
12. Ott Tänak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
16. Henning Solberg (NOR)/Ilka Minor AUT) Ford Fiesta RS WRC
18. Valeriy Gorban (UKR)/Volodymyr Korsia (UKR) BMW-Mini John Cooper Works
20. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai New i20 WRC