Friday 7 July 2017

Rally - Polish pace

If you didn't see it on the telly, then look out for the repeats. Last weekend's 74th Orlen Poland  was a belter from start to finish. Rain and mud on the first day, dry on the second then a mixture on the third all had a part to play, and all pretty much flat out all the day.

To say that Thierry Neuville won the rally is factually correct, but the claim that he was the best placed survivor is a wee bit more accurate. Going into the final stage on Sunday morning Neuville had a 3.1 second lead over Ott Tanak. By the end of the stage Tanak had a 1,8 second lead over the Hyundai driver, but it all went horribly wrong for the Ford driver in the next one.

The Fiesta smacked a tree head on: “It was the only muddy place in the forest," said Tanak, " Maybe I didn’t expect it to be that bad. I hit a bank with the rear and it pulled the front into a tree at high speed. Was I driving too hard? You need to push hard if you want to win.”

That allowed Neuville to claim his third victory of the season and cut Sébastien Ogier’s championship lead to 11 points with five rounds remaining.

“Ott drove a great rally. In such a fight nobody gives up. I wasn’t ready to give up and was prepared to win,” said Neuville, “I was sorry for him and congratulate him on the job he did before he crashed. He was amazing again and one guy who was hard to beat.”

In fact, the lead changed hands 10 times in 23 stages as title chasers Neuville and Tänak traded tenths of a second on blisteringly fast roads.

Making it a Hyundai 1-2 on the top podium, Hayden Paddon finished second with Ogier salvaging third place after a troubled outing in his Fiesta. For a while it looked as though Jari-Matti Latvala would score third for Toyota but gearbox and gear selection failure struck on SS16 and he was frustratingly out of the running, but by gawd that boy can cuss. The TV coverage had to bleep out most of it!

Ogier wasn't without his troubles either. On Day 2, he commented: “We’ve been really unlucky this morning. We picked up a slow puncture on the first stage and then another just one kilometre into the second one. Towards the end of that same stage we also hit the rear of the car. After that it was just a case of managing the rest of the loop, but that is how it goes sometimes. Sometimes the elements aren’t with you and you just have to keep fighting!” On the final day, like so many others, he slid into a field in the treacherous conditions but persevered to finish 26.6sec clear of Dani Sordo in the third Hyundai. The Spaniard punctured a tyre but ended 24.4sec clear of Stéphane Lefebvre in the Citroen, who equalled his career-best result.

Best of our lot were Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt whose DMACKS were not quite a match for the Michelins on the extremely wet stages, but still getting the better of both Mikkelsen in the Citroen and Hänninen in the Toyota to secure eighth place and vital points for M-Sport’s championship campaign.

“It’s been a tough weekend. We were hoping for a dry rally but we got the opposite and I think it’s fair to say that we struggled in the extreme conditions," said Elfyn, “We kept our heads down and focused on delivering a clean rally. Three stage wins and eighth place isn’t bad considering, and let’s hope the sun is shining next time out in Finland.

Craig Breen and Scott Martin finished just outside the top ten in 11th place after a gruelling run through the Polish countryside. On the second stage, a transmission problem afflicted the Citroen and he had to contest the following three stages with three-wheel drive dropping more than seven minutes.

On a more positive note, Gus Greensmith  and Craig Parry got themselves a good result in Poland finishing 22nd o/a and 7th in the WRC2 category while Ossian Pryce and Dale Furniss crashed out in their Fiesta during which the roll-cage was damaged so that was it.

Next round is Neste Rally Finland, on 27 - 30 July.

1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:40:46.1
2. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:23.9
3. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:20.8
3. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:47.4
5. Lefebvre / Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) +3:11.8
6. Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:16.8
7. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3:39.6
8. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:39.1
9. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Citroën C3 WRC) +4:43.5
10. Hänninen / Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4:53.7
11. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +11:56.5

1. Sébastien Ogier - 160 Points
2. Thierry Neuville - 149 Points
3. Jari-Matti Latvala - 112 Points
4. Ott Tanak - 108 Points
5. Dani Sordo - 82 Points
6. Elfyn Evans - 57 Points
7. Hayden Paddon - 51 Points
8. Craig Breen - 43 Points
9. Juho Hanninen - 30 Points
10. Kris Meeke - 27 points

1. M-Sport WRT - 259 points
2. Hyundai Motorsport - 237 points
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT - 156 points
4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT - 121 points

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