Rally Poland started with varied weather conditions that could hold a clue about what is to come over the next three days. Shakedown was held in largely muddy conditions, while torrential rain meant that the ceremonial start was cancelled. However, conditions later dried up sufficiently for the super special stage to go ahead this evening.
The side-by-side 2.5-kilometre stage was made damp and slippery by the earlier rain, which meant that all three Toyota Yaris WRC drivers exercised extreme caution. Jari-Matti Latvala ends the day holding fourth overall, ahead of team mates Esapekka Lappi in sixth and Juho Hänninen in 34th, who received a 10-second penalty for a jump start. Lappi had a minor engine problem on the stage that did not affect his speed, and he could return to parc ferme safely.
Tom Fowler (Chief Engineer)
“The muddy conditions in the shakedown meant that the grip levels were really inconsistent: you had some really muddy places with no grip and other places that were more sandy and offered quite a lot of grip. Our work was entirely focussed on engine preparation for these fast stages: we completed everything that we planned to do, so we’re very happy. With the heavy rain, the super special stage surface was extremely slippery, which meant our drivers had to be careful. You can’t win a rally on a super special stage, but it’s easy to have a problem. We think we know what the issue was with Esapekka’s car, and we’ll try and fix it in service tomorrow before he starts the stages.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
“The car felt good in the shakedown but it wasn’t particularly easy to get the right feeling because of the mixed conditions. I’m happy with the times and where we are at overall. But it’s very early days. I made a small mistake on the start of the super special stage, but we have a good feeling with the car, we’re in a solid position overnight and we’ll see how the weather is tomorrow. It’s all looking good so far.”
Juho Hänninen (Driver car 11)
“This rally is definitely going to be a big challenge. On the recce the stages were completely dry and dusty and there was a hard surface. But if it starts to rain during the rally, it will be really, really muddy. There were lots of people watching the super special stage, and the grip was changing a lot, not easy at all. I’m sorry about the jump start but at least we have the whole rally ahead of us now to try and catch up.”
Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 12)
“Poland is one of the fastest rallies of the year but it looks like one of the softest as well. The roads run directly through the fields and there are no ditches at all, which means that if and when it starts to rain, there is nowhere for the water to drain away and that makes the roads more slippery. But you should still be able to keep the speed up, so it’s going to be pretty challenging, I think. I had a small problem with the engine that started on the first lap of the stage, but the engineers believe they know how to fix it and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
End of Day 1 (Thursday):
1 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1m44.4s
2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +0.8s
3 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.9s
4 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.3s
5 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.4s
6 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.5s
7 Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.5s
8 Stephane Lefebvre/Gaban Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC): +1.5s
9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Citroen C3 WRC) +1.6s
10 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.8s
34 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.8s
(Results as of 23:30 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
Although it’s a relatively recent addition to the World Rally Championship, Rally Poland is one of the oldest rallies in the world. It was first run in 1921, meaning that only Rallye Monte-Carlo is older among the events currently on the WRC calendar. It featured in the inaugural WRC season in 1973 – when there were only three classified finishers – but didn’t return until 2009, having spent much of the intervening period as an asphalt rally in the European championship.
The drivers face a long first full day of competition, with nine stages totalling more than 111 kilometres. It's an early start as the cars leave at 06:25 and then head for four stages that are among the fastest of the whole rally, before returning for a service halt in Mikolajki. The afternoon loop is similar to the morning, but with the addition of another run over the Mikolajki Arena super special stage to end the day, before the first car comes back to service at 19:28.
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