WRC DMACK's Ott Tanak stuns rivals to lead in Rally Poland
PZM 73rd RALLY POLAND, June 30- July 3, 2016
2016 FIA World Rally Championship, round 7
For immediate release
Friday, July 1st, 2016
DMACK’S OTT TÄNAK STUNS HIS RIVALS TO LEAD RALLY POLAND
· Norwegian Mikkelsen and Kiwi Paddon in second and third
· Finland’s Suninen claims WRC 2 lead; Tempestini on top in WRC 3
MIKOLAJKI (Poland): Flying Estonian driver Ott Tänak stunned his more established rivals to lead outright after a nip and tuck battle over nine high-speed special stages of the PZM 73rd Rally Poland, round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship, on Friday.
The DMACK World Rally Team star won five of the day’s nine timed tests in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC and that gave him a 4.2-second advantage over Norway’s early pacesetter Andreas Mikkelsen in his Volkswagen Polo R WRC.
“It had been a good day,” said Tänak. “To be leading overnight is fantastic. Tomorrow we have a bit different stage surface, but there is no reason why we cannot be on the same pace at the front.”
Kiwi Hayden Paddon won three of the day’s gravel special stages to round off the top three and set up the prospect of a thrilling Saturday showdown in northeast Poland.
World Champion Sébastien Ogier tried his hardest to stay in contention with the leading trio and was rewarded with fourth place and the joint fastest time on the final stage, although Belgian Thierry Neuville was a mere 4.1 seconds behind at the overnight halt.
Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala struggled to find his rhythm throughout the day and held a distant sixth, with Frenchman Stéphane Lefebvre and Craig Breen separated by just fractions of a second all day in a superb tussle between the two Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team drivers. Breen finished the day just 1.7 seconds behind his team-mate.
Frenchman Eric Camilli belied his lack of experience to hold a solid ninth in the second M-Sport Ford Fiesta and a subdued Mads Østberg rounded off the top 10.
Skoda Motorsport’s talented young Pontus Tidemand had controlled proceedings in WRC 2 after eight special stages before leaving the road in SS9. Finland’s Teemu Suninen headed to the final stage of the day with a 5.2-second advantage over fellow countryman Esapekka Lappi. Welshman Elfyn Evans could not match the trio of Skodas and reached Mikolajki in third after a frustrating day.
Citroen DS3 R3Ts dominated the WRC 3 category after nine stages. Italy’s Simone Tempestini held an advantage of 11.6 seconds over Norway’s Ole Christian Veiby. Frenchman Terry Folb was third.
Friday – as it happened
Ogier laid down the gauntlet with an opening time of 3min 17.3sec through the fast, dry gravel of Chmeilewo, but Mikkelsen edged in front by four-tenths of a second and then Paddon and Tänak went faster still. Tänak, perhaps surprisingly, gained the outright lead from Paddon and Mikkelsen. Henning Solberg’s stepson Tidemand headed Lappi, Evans, Suninen and Karl Kruuda in WRC 2 and had an outright lead of 0.4 seconds.
The Wieliczki stage was next on the agenda and Mikkelsen – who finished second in Poland in 2014 and 2015 - snatched the lead from Tänak with the fastest time, although the sandy surface started to deteriorate in places and several drivers complained that it was sapping engine power. Tidemand continued to show a clean pair of heels to Suninen and a tying Lappi and Evans in the WRC 2 fight.
The onset of rain threatened to make the fourth Swietajno stage of 21.14km far more exciting, although the road surface was still dry when Ogier set the target time of 10min 09.2sec. Mikkelsen was 3.1 seconds quicker than the Frenchman, Latvala sustained a puncture and then Tänak collected the fastest time to reduce Mikkelsen’s lead to 2.3 seconds. The Estonian’s success marked the fourth different stage winner of the event so far. Suninen tied with Tidemand at the top of the WRC 2 standings and the Swede maintained a lead of 4.6 seconds.
The last stage before the return to Mikolajki was the 13.50km of Stare Juchy and Paddon clocked his second quickest time of the day to reduce Mikkelsen’s lead to just 2.6 seconds.
Tidemand extended his advantage over Suninen to 6.5 seconds, as Lappi came in with the fastest time to move into third place in WRC 2. “Pontus has been really pushing this morning,” said Lappi. “This stage was okay, but it’s difficult to find the golden way.”
Ogier said: “Most of the places were very dry this morning. I hope it’s going to rain. I think it is impossible to fight for victory. I try, like always, to give everything in the tank.”
“I think we had a really good morning,” said Mikkelsen. ”We have been pushing, for sure, but not completely crazy. Fast stages suit me quite well. It’s a little bit forgiving here, so it gives me a bit more confidence.”
Ogier shaved five seconds off his morning’s time on the re-run of Chmeilewo, but another quickest time for Tänak pushed the Estonian to within 3.5 seconds of the lead and 1.6 seconds of second-placed Paddon. It was business as usual at the front of WRC 2 for Tidemand and the Swede took a lead of 8.1 seconds over Suninen into stage seven. Valeriy Gorban landed heavily after a big jump and broke his BMW-Mini’s suspension.
Wieliczki 2 was heavily rutted in places and several of the leaders admitted it was difficult to find the proper line and turn into the corners. Several drivers survived the occasional moment but a flying Tänak clocked his third fastest time to reduce Mikkelsen’s lead to just 0.3 seconds. A delighted Breen was equal third fastest: “It’s incredible. I’m having a ball, on top of the world. It’s what I dreamed of since I was a kid.”
Tidemand’s superb form continued in WRC 2 and the Swede extended his lead over Suninen to 11.2 seconds. Both Evans and Nicolas Fuchs survived minor spins as Lappi retained third.
Another fastest time earned Tänak the outright lead through Swietajno. Suninen managed to reduce Tidemand’s lead to 10.2 seconds with the fastest WRC 2 time, but the category leader crashed 6.3km into the Stary Juchy special and gifted the advantage to Suninen, with a flying Lappi in second place.
Paddon topped the overall stage times to consolidate third place, although Tänak headed towards the Mikolajki Arena with a lead over Mikkelsen of two seconds.
Tomorrow (Saturday), crews tackle a further seven special stages, comprising two runs through the Goldap, Stanczyki and Babki timed tests and a third visit to the Mikolajki Arena super special ay the end of the day.
PZM 73rd Rally Poland – positions after SS11 (unofficial):
1. Ott Tänak (EST)/Raigo Molder (EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 01min 23.0sec
2. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Anders Jaeger (NOR) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 01min 27.2sec
3. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/John Kennard (NZL) Hyundai New i20 WRC 1hr 01min 33.2sec
4. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 01min 39.3sec
5. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai New i20 WRC 1hr 01min 43.4sec
6. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC 1hr 01min 59.6sec
7. Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA)/Gabin Moreau (FRA) Citroën DS3 WRC 1hr 02min 02.4sec
8. Craig Breen (IRL)/Scott Martin (GBR) Citroën DS3 WRC 1hr 02min 04.1sec
9. Eric Camilli (FRA)/Benjamin Veillas (FRA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 02min 21.6sec
10. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1hr 02min 29.7sec
11. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai New i20 WRC 1hr 02min 35.2sec