WRC Revised Rally Poland set to fire into life on Thursday evening
ORLEN 74TH RALLY POLAND, June 29- July 2, 2017
2017 FIA World Rally Championship, round 8
For immediate release
Wednesday, June 28th, 2017
REVISED RALLY POLAND SET TO FIRE INTO LIFE ON THURSDAY EVENING
· Citroën’s Mikkelsen hopes to benefit from upgrades to C3 WRC
· Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand defends comfortable WRC 2 lead in Poland
MIKOLAJKI (Poland): One of the most open and exciting ever FIA World Rally Championships heads to north-eastern Poland this weekend, when 49 teams will tackle 23 special stages at the four-day Orlen 74th Rally Poland.
Five different drivers have won the seven rounds of the series held so far in Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico, Corsica, Argentina, Portugal and Sardinia and defending World Champion, Sébastien Ogier, of the M-Sport World Rally Team leads the Drivers’ Championship by just 18 points from Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.
Ogier and Neuville are the only two drivers to have taken two wins apiece so far this season, with the Frenchman starting his campaign in winning style in Monte Carlo and adding another victory to his current tally of 40 WRC wins in Portugal.
Neuville edged out Elfyn Evans in an Argentinean nail-biter after winning in Corsica, while flying Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, Ulsterman Kris Meeke and Estonia’s Ott Tanak have taken a win apiece in Sweden, Mexico and Sardinia.
The M-Sport World Rally Team leads the Manufacturers’ Championship heading to Eastern Europe. Malcolm Wilson’s WRC operation is 40 points clear of Hyundai Motorsport and a further 51 in front of the Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team. With three wins from seven starts, the Ford Fiesta WRC has been the car to beat and Evans could so easily have made it four wins had he not missed out on a maiden victory on the very last stage in Argentina.
Ogier is an ever-present in the modern era of WRC Rally Poland and a two-time winner, while Tanak’s success last time out should give the British team the impetus it needs to press on for a second ever WRC victory on Polish gravel after Mikko Hirvonen’s success with a Ford Focus RS WRC in 2009.
Both Haydon Paddon and Dani Sordo have shown impressive turns of speed for Hyundai this season and Paddon was the fastest driver in Sardinia for long periods. This, coupled with the consistency that Neuville has shown since his disappointing start to the season, should stand the Germany-based team in good stead this weekend.
Citroën has struggled to repeat the form it showed last year in a transition and development season with Kris Meeke. One dominant victory for the Ulsterman in Mexico is all that the French operation has to show for a first half of the year that has been fraught with incidents and led to the shock decision by management to replace Meeke for this event with last year’s Rally Poland winner Andreas Mikkelsen.
Ireland’s Craig Breen and Frenchman Sébastien Lefebvre keep their places in the other two C3 WRCs, although the team will try several upgrades and hopeful improvements on Mikkelsen’s car this weekend. The homologation of a new rear differential rail and a mechanical ‘joker’ in order to modify the torque split between the axles have been submitted to the FIA.
“We had a good test session recently,” said Mikkelsen. “After spending two days in the car, on the kind of roads we will encounter in this rally, I defined a set-up that matches my driving style. Poland is my favourite rally. I was runner-up in 2014 and 2015 and then I won last year. Factors like the weather, the dust and the running order can affect the outcome of the race, but I am hoping to go for a podium spot if everything goes well.”
The Toyota GAZOO World Rally Team has impressed on its first season in the WRC under the management of four-time champion Tommi Mäkinen. Latvala won second time out in Sweden and finished second in Monte Carlo and Sardinia.
Juha Hänninen keeps his place in the line-up, but Mäkinen will run a third Yaris for the talented young Esapekka Lappi, with winner in Poland when it was a round of the FIA European Rally Chamionship in 2012. He finished a fine fourth in Sardinia recently.
“It should be a good test for the aerodynamics of our car at high speed, which is an area where we have been working well,” said Mäkinen. “Poland should also be less hard on the car after some of the rough rallies we have seen recently.”
Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand has dominated the prestigious WRC 2 feeder category so far this year and the Skoda Fabia R5 driver arrives in Poland with a series lead of 46 points over Teemu Suninen after taking victories in Sweden, Mexico, Argentina and Portugal.
Polish hopes rest on the shoulders of Hubert Ptaszek, Lukasz Pieniazek, Jaroslaw Koltun and Wojciech Chuchala.
Spain’s Nil Solans leads both the WRC 3 and JWRC categories in his Ford Fiesta R2. The French duo of Raphael Astier and Nicolas Ciamin are his closest rivals in the respective categories. Jakub Brzezinski represents the host nation in his Citroën DS3 R3T.
Thursday’s hectic timetable gets under with the traditional 4.9km Shakedown stage at Sady on Thursday morning. Select drivers will then attend the pre-event press conference in rally headquarters, prior to the official start in the small tourist town square in Mikolajki from 4pm.
The competitive action gets underway at 19.08hrs 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.
The bulk of the action on the world’s second oldest rally then takes place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and features several new stages in the Masurian Lake District and a mixed weather forecast for the weekend.
ORLEN 74th Rally Poland – leading starters:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA)/Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Ford Fiesta WRC
2. Ott Tanak (EST)/Martin Jarveoja (EST) Ford Fiesta WRC
3. Elfyn Evans (GBR)/Daniel Barritt (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC
4. Hayden Paddon (NZL)/Sebastien Marshall (GBR) Hyundai i20 Coupe WR
5. Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
6. Dani Sordo (ESP)/Marc Marti (ESP) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
7. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Anders Jaeger (NOR) Citroën C3 WRC
8. Craig Breen (IRL)/Scott Martin (GBR) Citroën C3 WRC
9. Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA)/Gabin Moreau (FRA) Citroën C3 WRC
10. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC
11. Juha Hänninen (FIN)/Kaj Lindström (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC
12. Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC
14. Mads Østberg (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta WRC
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers – positions after round 7:
1. Sébastien Ogier (FRA) 141pts
2. Thierry Neuville (BEL) 123pts
3. Ott Tanak (EST) 108pts
4. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) 107pts
5. Dani Sordo (ESP) 70pts
6. Elfyn Evans (GBR) 53pts
7. Craig Breen (IRL) 43pts
8. Hayden Paddon (NZL) 33pts
9. Juha Hänninen (FIN) 29pts
10. Kris Meeke (GBR) 27pts, etc
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers – positions after round 7:
1. M-Sport World Rally Team 234pts
2. Hyundai Motorsport 194pts
3. Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT 143pts
4. Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 97pts
2017 FIA WRC 2 Championship – latest positions:
1. Pontus Tidemand (SWE) 100pts
2. Teemu Suninen (FIN) 54pts
3. Eric Camilli (FRA) 52pts
4. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) 50pts, etc
2017 FIA WRC 3 Championship – latest positions:
1. Nil Solans (ESP) 61pts
2. Raphael Astier (FRA) 50pts
3. Nicolas Ciamin (FRA) 33pts
4. Julius Tannert (DEU) 25pts
4. Francesco Name (MEX) 25pts, etc
2017 FIA JWRC Championship – latest positions:
1. Nil Solans (ESP) 62pts
2. Nicolas Ciamin (FRA) 42pts
3. Terry Folb (FRA) 33pts
4. Julius Tannert (DEU) 27pts
5. Dennis Radstrom (SWE) 21pts, etc