It’s time for one of the fastest rallies on the planet!! The 74th Rally Poland starts on Thursday evening with a super special around the Mikolajki Arena.
This year there are 23 stages covering 326.64 km. There are three new stages, Baranowo, Pozezdrze and Kruklanki this year to provide a new challenge for the drivers and the co-drivers. Also with the faster cars of this season, many changes will need to be made to last year’s pace notes.
RALLY POLAND SCHEDULE (GMT+2)
THURSDAY 29 JUNE
8.00am: Shakedown – Sady (4.90km)
4.00pm: Start (Mikolajki)
7.08pm: SS1 – Mikolajki Arena (2.50km)
7.28pm: Parc ferme (Mikolajki)
FRIDAY 30 JUNE
6.25am: Service A (Mikolajki – 18 mins)
7.15am: SS2 – Chmielewo 1 (6.52km)
9.00am: SS3 – Wieliczki 1 (15.96km)
9.55am: SS4 – Swietajno 1 (19.60km)
10.40am: SS5 – Stare Juchy 1 (13.50km)
12.40pm: Service B (Mikolajki – 33 mins)
1.45pm: SS6 – Chmielewo 2 (6.52km)
3.30pm: SS7 – Wieliczki 2 (15.96km)
4.25pm: SS8 – Swietajno 2 (19.60km)
5.10pm: SS9 – Stare Juchy 2 (13.50km)
7.08pm: SS10 – Mikolajki Arena 2 (2.50km)
7.38pm: Service C (Mikolajki – 48 mins)
SATURDAY 1 JULY
7.45am: Service D (Mikolajki – 18 mins)
8.08am: SS11 – Baranowo 1 (15.55km)
9.20am: SS12 – Pozezdrze 1 (24.28km)
10.45am: SS13 – Goldap 1 (14.75km)
11.35am: SS14 – Kruklanki 1 (19.58km)
1.12pm: Service E (Mikolajki – 33 mins)
2.08pm: SS15 – Baranowo 2 (15.55km)
3.20pm: SS16 – Pozezdrze 2 (24.28km)
4.45pm: SS17 – Goldap 2 (14.75km)
5.35pm: SS18 – Kruklanki 2 (19.58km)
7.30pm: SS19 – Mikolajki Arena 3 (2.50km)
8.00pm: Service F (Mikolajki – 48 mins)
SUNDAY 2 JULY
6.40am: Service G (Mikolajki – 18 mins)
8.10am: SS20 – Orzysz 1 (11.15km)
9.08am: SS21 – Paprotki 1 (18.68km)
10.45am: SS22 – Orzysz 2 (11.15km)
12.18pm: SS23 – Paprotki 2 – Power Stage (18.68km)
1.40pm: Service H (Mikolajki – 13 mins)
2.30pm: Podium (Mikolajki)
Stage maps courtesy of Rally Poland
Now, last year, Ott Tanak came within one stage of victory, but a puncture cost him his lead and Andreas Mikkelsen picked up the win. Of course, Ott won last time out, becoming our fifth different winner this year!
Now, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle are not driving in this event, after having a troubled last few events. Andreas will be driving, with Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre in the C3 WRC cars. The Citroen team are bringing some updates to their car as well after testing them last week. They are a new rear differential rail and a change to the torque split between the front and rear four-wheel drive system.
Let’s hear then from the drivers ahead of this classic event.
Sébastien Ogier said:
“Rally Poland is an event that every driver looks forward to. The pace is incredible and the fast roads give an amazing sense of adrenaline that will only be magnified by the new cars this year.
“I have good memories from Poland having won there twice before, but last year it was probably the worst event for me in terms of road cleaning.
“Leading the championship is exactly where we wanted to be at this point in the season, but if it’s dry that will provide something of a disadvantage on Friday and we’ll need to work hard to limit the time loss.
“It’s so hard to claw back time here, but let’s see what we can do. We had a good test in Estonia where we found a good feeling with the car – that bodes well and we’re ready to push and give it our all.
“Maintaining our lead in the championship is the top priority, and extending it would be a good weekend.”
Ott Tänak said:
“Everyone knows that Rally Poland is one of my favourite events. The stages are so fast and flowing, and that’s something that I really enjoy. I grew up on roads like this in Estonia, and this year will be even more of an adrenaline rush with the new cars – I can’t wait!
“This is a real drivers’ rally. The speeds are incredible and you have to be full of confidence. The pacenotes have to be perfect and the smallest of hesitations can cost you speed and time – something which is very hard to get back on these fast roads.
“I’m sure a lot of people will be looking at us as we’ve done very well here in the past, but let’s see what happens. We won’t have the best road position as the third car on the road, but we had a good test in Estonia and we’re feeling fairly positive.
“We’ve got a good feeling with the car and I’m sure that we’ll enjoy every second of this rally whatever the outcome. The podium always has to be our minimum goal, so bring it on!”
Teemu Suninen said:
“I’ll be taking the next step in my career next week, and it’s a big step – my world rally car debut! The challenge from WRC 2 has been multiplied and I can’t wait to get started. Rally Poland has always been kind to me, so it is great to start this part of my career there.
“Good preparation is really important. I don’t ever expect a debut in a world rally car to be easy, but we have completed a two-day test with M-Sport to get used to the car and find our feet.
“I’ve not had chance to test in Poland so I’ll need to take all of my high-speed kilometres from the rally itself.
“Shakedown will give us our first experience of these fast stages, and then the plan will be to drive smoothly to the finish – gaining maximum experience before my next outing on home soil.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“I’m really looking forward to Rally Poland. It’s fair to say that Sardinia didn’t quite go to plan, but we’ve regrouped and can hopefully secure another good result next week.
“The stages in Poland are incredibly fast and confidence is everything. We tested in Estonia last week where we found a good set-up and that has been a big positive boost for the rally.
“The test road was really representative and we got a lot of kilometres under our belt in a lot of different conditions, so we’re feeling pretty well prepared.
“I’m looking forward to this one, as I’m sure a lot of drivers will be! It’s such an adrenaline rush and a real highlight on the calendar.”
Hayden Paddon said:
“Our performance in Sardinia showed exactly what we are capable of achieving. It was a shame to lose the lead in the way that we did, but we have to bounce back. I am determined to focus on the positives, of which there were many in the recent rallies. I have spent some time back in New Zealand in between the events, which was good to help refocus. Poland is definitely one of my favourite rallies. It’s one of the fastest of the year, and of course I love going as quick as I can! I think the car will suit the roads quite well. We’re looking forward to it and as always we’ll be giving it 100%.”
Thierry Neuville said:
“I really enjoy Rally Poland as I like the flow of the stages. There are not as many dangerous corners and the stages are quite open. You can be a bit braver at this one and take a few more risks. It is a lot of fun because the speed is just amazing, but at the same time, we know that we have a job to do and we want to continue to press as hard as we can to stay in the Championship hunt. We are now into the latter stages of the season, so this is where every moment and every decision matters.”
Dani Sordo said:
“Given the speeds that can be reached in Poland, it is vitally important that our pace notes are accurate. This is particularly the case through some of the corners, where you can lose a lot of time if you make even the smallest mistake. There is no margin for error because it is a really, really fast rally. In general, the atmosphere is nice, with huge crowd’s present, so it is an enjoyable event. We finished very strongly in Sardinia, and will look to build on that in Poland!”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“We had a really good test for Poland, which featured some rain as well, and I think this will be very useful as there was also some rain on the final day in Poland last year, which often happens after you have many days of hot conditions as we expect next week. We made some steps forward with the dampers and I was particularly impressed by the stability of the car. With a lot of the car’s development having taken place on the rapid roads of Finland, I think the Yaris WRC should be well suited to the very fast roads in Poland too.”
Juho Hänninen said:
“I was happy with our progress in Sardinia and our preparations were able to build on that. I actually think that our car is better on the fast rallies compared to the slow rallies so this gives me a lot of confidence, as you do not have to worry so much about the set-up and you can just concentrate on the driving. On the test, I made some changes to the suspension and since then there has been even more development, so this is really positive. Road cleaning will not be as big a factor as it was in Sardinia but Friday could still be important.
Esapekka Lappi said:
“The test before Poland was a good step up for me: from the slow roads of Sardinia to the really fast and flat-out roads that we experienced in testing. I would say that the test was representative, although maybe in Poland we can expect roads that are slightly softer and sandier. Although I had a good result in Sardinia I have no particular expectations for Poland. Because it’s a really fast rally you need a lot of confidence and I’m not sure if I have that yet. I just want to have a clean run and reach the finish with no problems in order to learn as much as possible.”
Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT
Andreas Mikkelsen said:
“We had a very good test session last week. After spending two days in the car, on the kind of roads we’ll encounter in the rally, I defined a set-up that matches my driving style. Obviously, there is still work to do, but I think Craig and Stéphane were also pleased with the changes. Poland is my favourite rally: I was runner-up in 2014 and 2015, and then won here in 2016. I feel confident on these roads where, as a driver, you really need to commit. After learning about the car at Rally Sardegna, I hope I can fight among the frontrunners this time out. Many factors – such as the weather, the dust and the running order – can affect the outcome of the race, but I’m hoping to go for a podium spot if everything goes well.”
Craig Breen said:
“After the rough, winding roads of Sardinia, pre-event testing gave me the chance to readjust to the fast, flowing roads in Poland. Andreas explored some new ideas during testing, which seem to be a move in the right direction. I’m pleased to be competing at a rally where I don’t have to learn about everything. Last year, this event marked something of a turning point in my season. This is where I laid the foundations for my podium in Finland. I feel more confident coming into this event than I did before the last three rallies and I think I can up my pace here. Following a series of fifth places, I’d love to get a bit closer to the podium.”
Stephane Lefebvre said:
“Like Andreas and Craig, I think we made progress during testing. I really like Rally Poland. I have been quick here in the last three years, regardless of the category. Last year, I also had the pleasure of claiming my first proper stage win in the WRC, as the leaders were fighting for first place. I know how to drive on these roads and my confidence was boosted by the test sessions. The stages are quite similar to those in Finland, with narrower roads and looser surfaces. There are also long sections through the fields, which are very fast but with few landmarks. My goal is to make it to the finish and put an end to the poor run of results I’ve had recently.”
Mads Østberg is eager for this event!
“I am looking forward to proving that I can master the specialities of this rally. We have run three very technical and rough gravel events in a row, but in Poland it all changes. It`s a gravel rally ok, but more like Finland with superfast stages. Actually, in some parts it is faster than Finland. The last two years I have struggled a bit in this rally, but I have a positive feeling now after our test last Sunday.”
During the test, he had a small off the road moment.
“Normally it`s not my habit to go off the road, but this time we found the limit. It was nothing to dramatical, but created some extra work for my team. Anyway, I felt the test gave us a good base setup for these fast roads and I will use shakedown on the Thursday to finetune a bit.”
So far, this year, Mads and his small team have shown good pace, but have suffered mechanical problems, so for this event, he’s looking to have a consistent rally and hopefully this will lead to a decent result.
“We have to put together a whole rally. The speed is definitely there and the team is working in a very dedicated style. My goal now is to show that I can be on the top throughout an event, and it can certainly happen in Poland, he says.”
Still he is not really interested in revealing his result wise ambitions in an event he has felt a bit unsure about the last two years.
“It a special event with very high speeds and extremely deep ruts the second time through the stages. I need to be confident all the way through, and if I can manage that I will be able to collect some very good WRC points. That’s all I`m willing to tell before the rally starts.”
M-Sport will also be running some Fiesta R5 cars, with Éric Camilli, Gus Greensmith, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Osian Pryce at the wheel of them.
Here’s what they had to say about this special rally and their hopes.
Éric Camilli said:
“We had a great rally in Sardinia and now I’m looking forward to the next challenge in Poland, but these two rallies could not be more different!
“The stages in Sardinia were really narrow and rough and you had to be really clever. In Poland, it’s all about being confident and brave. The stages are so fast and flowing and they really are a pleasure to drive flat-out.
“Hopefully, we can continue our good form on these fast stages. We won’t be competing for WRC 2 points, but a lot of the main players will be there and it will be a great opportunity for us to show our speed against them.”
Gus Greensmith said:
“Rally Poland is fast – really fast – and that is a unique challenge in itself. It’s an event I enjoy because of the speed, and because of the high level of commitment that you need to apply in every corner.
“The biggest challenge is in knowing not to push the entry to every corner as you can lose a lot of time on that – especially if it’s followed by a long straight. To be on the pace in Poland, you definitely need to find the right balance between patience and commitment.
“Portugal was a good rally for us, and when we had a clean stage we were fighting right at the sharp end which was great.
“I’d like to make another step forward in Poland. I don’t have a particular position in mind, but I do have a good idea of where I want to be and I’m looking forwarded to realising that goal.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet said:
“Rally Poland is an event that I will always remember – it’s where I had a big crash during shakedown when I was competing in in the Junior World Rally Championship.
“Last year however, I had a lot of fun there and I hope to have just as much this year too. The speeds are incredible and to succeed you need to keep a fast pace whilst staying on the road.
“I’m not scoring WRC 2 points this weekend, so the goal is to take maximum experience ready for a big push in Finland.”
Osian Pryce said:
“I’m really looking forward to Rally Poland. Doing the British Rally Championship with the Fiesta R5, I’ve built up some confidence over the first half of the year and we’ll have a good team around us so I’m looking forward to what will hopefully be an enjoyable and rewarding weekend.
“This will be my third time at Rally Poland and the roads there are definitely unique. It’s a great event with a real buzz about it. The speeds on the stages are incredible, but so are the people – the Polish fans really get involved and have a clear passion for their motorsport.
“Like Finland, the speed in Poland really is on another level. The level of commitment needed is pretty high and you need to find the right balance – between finding that commitment and not overdoing it and making mistakes.
“Of course, I want to set some good times and secure a positive result, but at the end of the day I just want to go out there and enjoy it and make the most of the opportunity.”
This event promises to be very exciting indeed! We have a real battle for the championship between the top four drivers, just 34 points between fourth placed Jari-Matti and leader Seb.
Friday’s action sees 116.16km of action, then on Saturday, 150.82 and finally on Sunday 59.66km’s.
Enjoy the event!
Warren Nel, WRC editor