Rally Sweden 2018 Preview!

Its time for Round Two! The WRC heads for the amazing snow-covered roads of Sweden, one of the fastest rallies of the year! Helping the drivers keep a grip will be the special tyres that Michelin bring.

 

Two centimetres narrower that their gravel equivalent, and a full five centimetres narrower than the tarmac version, Michelin’s “Sweden” tyre mainly stands out due to the 384 studs glued into drilled holes on the tyre tread. The studs provide such a high level of grip that at equivalent speeds, the braking distances are the same as on dry tarmac! The challenge in Sweden therefore consists of taking great care of these twenty-millimetre-long spikes, which protrude around seven millimetres from the tread blocks. The Scandinavian rally is also one of the few events where taking two spare wheels, especially on the second pass when gravel begins to appear and lines form, actually helps performance. The challenge is to switch tyres at the right moment, so that the studs wear out evenly, and avoid having an uneven tyre set-up.

 

This year there are 19 stages and a total of 314,25 competitive km’s.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Sweden (SWE) – WRC 09/02/2017 to 12/02/2017 – PHOTO : @World

 

Here’s the full details of the stages!

 

THURSDAY 15 FEBRUARY

8.00am: shakedown (Skalla)

8.04pm: Start day 1 (Karlstad)

8.08pm: SS 1 – Karlstad (1,90 km)

9.54pm: End of day 1

 

FRIDAY 16 FEBRUARY

6.00am: Start day 2 and Service A (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.55am: SS 2 – Hof-Finnskog 1 (21,26 km)

9.07am: SS 3 – Svullrya 1 (24,88 km)

9.54am: SS 4 – Röjden 1 (19,13 km)

11.31am: Service B (Torsby – 30 mins)

1.41pm: SS 5 – Hof-Finnskog 2 (21,26 km)

3.03pm: SS 6 – Svullrya 2 (24,88 km)

3.50pm: SS 7 – Röjden 2 (19,13 km)

4.56pm: SS 8 – Torsby 1 (9,56 km)

5.31pm: Flexi Service C (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SATURDAY 17 FEBRUARY

7.05am: Start day 3 and Service D (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.54am: SS 9 – Torntorp 1 (19,88 km)

9.12am: SS 10 – Hagfors 1 (23,40 km)

10.08am: SS 11 – Vargasen 1 (14,21 km)

11.40am: Service E (Torsby – 30 mins)

12.44pm: SS 12 – Torntorp 2 (19,88 km)

2.12pm: SS 13 – Hagfors 2 (23,40 km)

3.08pm: SS 14 – Vargasen 2 (14,21 km)

5.45pm: SS 15 – Karlstad 2 (1,90 km)

7.26pm: SS 16 – Torsby Sprint (3,43 km)

7.56pm: Flexi Service F (Torsby – 45 mins)

 

SUNDAY 18 FEBRUARY

6.30am: Start day 4 and Service G (Torsby – 15 mins)

7.50am: SS 17 – Likenäs 1 (21,19 km)

9.51am: SS 18 – Likenäs 2 (21,19 km)

12.18pm: SS 19 – Torsby 2 (9,56 km)

 

1.00pm: Podium (Torsby)

 

 

Here’s the views of all the teams then!

M-Sport Ford

Sébastien Ogier

“It looks as though we are in for a true winter rally next week with everything needed for a classic Rally Sweden. Reports from the region suggest that there’s a good ice base and high snow banks which is everything a driver wants to hear ahead of this event.

“In those conditions, we can reach incredible speeds and lean the cars on the snow banks to help guide us through the corners. It’s an amazing feeling, but it’s not without its challenges.

“There’s certainly an art to driving on snow and you need to be precise. You have to judge the strength of the snow banks perfectly and – with more snow than previous years – there could be a lot of work to do on the Pacenotes.

“As the first car on the road, we’ll also have to wait and see what the conditions are like and we’re certainly not hoping to see any fresh snow on Friday.

“We got the season off to a great start last month, but we all know how strong the competition is and we’re expecting it to be even stronger next week. The Scandinavians are always strong here, but we plan to give them a hard time and secure another strong haul of points for our championship defence.”

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP 2017 -WRC Sweden (SWE) – WRC 09/02/2017 to 12/02/2017 – PHOTO : @World

Elfyn Evans

“Rally Sweden is an event that everyone looks forward to. On a classic Rally Sweden – like what we’re expecting this year – we can reach incredible speeds and if you get it right it’s easily one of the most enjoyable rallies on the calendar.

“The feeling on snow isn’t a million miles away from driving on gravel, but there are certain techniques that we’ll need to adapt and it can take a bit of getting used to at first.

“Vision can often be a challenge – particularly if there is a lot of fresh snow making it difficult to read the road ahead. Our Pacenotes and recce are going to have to be spot on, but we’re ready for it and really looking forward to it.

“There’s something of a score to settle after Monte where we were capable of achieving more than we did, so let’s see what we can do in Sweden.”

 

Teemu Suninen

“We’ve just completed some good test kilometres in Northern Sweden which went really well. I’ve not driven the Fiesta WRC since last year’s Rally Finland, so that gave us a chance to get familiar with the car and we’re now feeling well prepared for the start of the rally.

“It would be amazing to challenge for a podium again. Perhaps that is a realistic goal, but we would have to deliver the perfect rally to achieve it. With eight events this year, we also have to consider a slightly different approach. In 2017, we were solely focused on our future and showing what we could do, but this time we also have to think about the team and scoring points for the manufacturers’ championship.

“In terms of the weather, there have been talks of freezing temperatures and high snow banks but we’ll have to wait for the recce before we can see for ourselves. Whatever the conditions, the speed is always high. On a rally as fast as this the seconds are harder to gain, and we will have to be on the pace from the very first stage.”

 

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Kris Meeke

“It looks like we going to get perfect winter conditions this year and like all the WRC drivers, I can’t wait to get started! In the last few seasons, with a limited amount of snow, you had to be very cautious or risk getting stuck in a snow bank after the slightest impact. The snow banks seem to be bigger and more compact this time around, so we’ll undoubtedly be able to drive more aggressively and use the banks more, although we may need a bit of time to get used to that. In any event, it’s an exciting challenge that I’m going to try and tackle with the same sensible approach as in Monte-Carlo.”

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, Rally Sweden 2017. Photo Credit, Citroen

Craig Breen

“Between the start and end of last season, the C3 WRC made a lot of progress on gravel, so I hope it’ll be the same on snow and ice. Especially as Sweden is one of my favourite rallies, and one where I feel really confident. In fact, I had my very first race in a WRC here in 2014 and also made my maiden appearance in Sweden with Citroën Racing in 2016. After a difficult Monte, I’d love to get decent points on the board. And it looks like the road conditions will be perfect for this year’s rally, with really solid snow banks that are forgiving if you make a relatively minor mistake.”

 

Mads Ostberg

“Rally Sweden is a special event for me and I have always been quick here, so I’m very happy to have this opportunity to rejoin the team. I’m hoping to make the most of the shakedown at Satory and then the day of pre-event testing to adapt quickly to the C3 WRC. In any case, I’m already up to speed in these conditions, having contested two winter rallies in Norway, the second of which I won. With the bigger snow banks this year, the roads are likely to be narrower and more technically demanding, so perhaps we Scandinavians may be able to take advantage of our greater experience in conditions like these.”

 

Toyota Gazoo WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala

“Sweden is one of my favourite rallies and actually the place where I took my first WRC victory 10 years ago – although it really doesn’t feel like so long ago! Compared to last year I think we have a better car: we concentrated on improving it on the slower and more technical sections during our test, and we definitely made a step forward in this area. Having said that, the competition is even tougher this year: within our own team as well. It’s going to be a really nice challenge in proper winter conditions and that of course helps me raise my own game; I’m confident we can fight for the win again. This weekend I’m also taking part in a local rally on snow in Finland with Juho Hänninen in my historic Toyota Celica, so this will be a lot of fun and the perfect way to prepare.”

Last years winners for Toyota Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Antilla tackle Colins Crest. Photo Credit, Toyota Gazoo WRT

 

Ott Tänak

“I’m still learning about the Yaris WRC, but after driving it on snow during the test I’m beginning to understand why Jari-Matti won in Sweden last year. For the first part of the rally we’ll just have to see how everything goes, but of course I’m hoping that we can fight for the podium and even the win. If the snow is heavy on the stages, which seems to be the case, our start position of second on the road won’t be ideal, but of course the weather can change. I’m just going to enjoy the weekend and do my best. There’s a lot more still to come.”

Esapekka Lappi

“It took me a few days to get over the disappointment of losing fourth place in Monte-Carlo on the last stage, but in the end, there were more positives than negatives. Up to that point, we had driven a very consistent rally, and my aim is to do the same in Sweden. We had a good test and did around 400 kilometres in two days, which was enough for me to get a good feel. Our car should be well-suited to Sweden but it’s a very different type of rally to Monte-Carlo: in Monte, sometimes you have to be brave by going slow enough, whereas in Sweden you need a different type of commitment. I didn’t compete on the rally last year, so I am missing a bit of experience, but snow is a surface I always feel comfortable on.”

 

Hyundai Motorsport

Andreas Mikkelsen

“Rally Sweden is a very special event for me because of the opportunity we have to go rallying across the border into my home country of Norway. We have a lot of support from fans, family and friends. It’s a beautiful event and the only one we get to tackle completely on snow and ice with proper studded tyres. They give amazing grip and the feeling is unbelievable. We expect a good number of snow banks this year, so we will be able to explore the limits.”

Thierry Neuville

“We had good speed on the Swedish and Norwegian stages last year but unfortunately things didn’t end well when we were forced to retire on the penultimate day. This year, I am aiming to challenge once again for the win but with a far better outcome. Sweden is truly a unique event; the only one where we can compete with fully studded tyres for the complete rally. As one of the fastest rallies of the season, it’s an exhilarating one from inside the cockpit and for the fans lining the stages. We want to put on a good show and, most importantly, deliver a good result.”

Hayden Paddon

“I can’t wait to get my 2018 season underway finally. It feels like a long time since we were competing in Australia.  Sweden will be a fresh start for us. I have good memories from finishing on the podium two years ago, and I will be trying to repeat some of that performance. It was great to get re-acquainted with the car in testing recently. We were able to enjoy some outstanding winter driving conditions. More of that in the rally, as well as a decent result, would be the perfect start to my season.”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 02, WRC, Sweden
06-12 February 2017
Hayden Paddon, John Kennard, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Action
Day 1
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

 

Now, there are lots of spectacular stages in this event, none more so than Vargasen, which features Colins Crest! Lots of fans base themselves there, just to see these amazing cars fly through the air and last year, Mads got the biggest jump of the event.

This year looks to be just as amazing! There has been a lot of snow, which means the snow banks are of very good quality!

We’ve got the returning Hayden and Mads, plus a good battle between Ott and Seb. What chance we have seeing a different driver leading the championship on Sunday afternoon?

 

Enjoy!

Rally Poland 2017 Review; Thierry makes it three!!

 

Thierry Neuville would take his third win of 2017 on the Polish roads, but there would be lots of different leaders of the 74th Rally Poland. Here is the story of this year’s event.

Thursday morning would dawn a very wet day after thunderstorms would hit the stages overnight. The shakedown stage was very very muddy. Thierry would set the fastest time by two tenths of a second, from Ott, winner of the last rally in Italia. There was little to separate them.

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)

 

SS1 – Super Special Stage Mikolajki Arena -1 (2.50km)

1 Evans    1:44.4 (120kph)

2 Neuville  +0.8

3 Ogier       +0.9

Just the usual short evening stage to get the event underway and it was a stage that Elfyn would win, and therefore hold an early lead.

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)

It was an early start for the teams on Friday morning, and Thierry would start very strong, winning stage two and taking the overall lead. Previous leader, Elfyn in the D-Mack shod Fiesta would drop to 13th overall. Jari-Matti would pop into second overall with Seb in third at this point.

SS2 – Chmielewo – 1 (6.52km)

1 Neuville 3:22.9 (120kph)

2 Latvala      +0.2

3 Ogier          +1.4

The lead would change at the end of stage three, with Thierry dropping time and Jari-Matti took over top spot after winning the stage from Ott and Thierry losing 3.1 seconds and falling to fourth. Top three overall was now Jari-Matti, Seb and Ott.

SS3 – Wieliczki -1 (15.05km)

1 Latvala 7:33.0 (128.6kph)

2 Tanak       +0.9

3 Ogier         +1.3

Jari-Matti won the next stage as well, and his nearest challenger would become Ott, as Seb fell behind his young Estonian teammate. Speaking of teammates, Esapekka Lappi would stop in this stage, and lose time. Teemu Suninen had made a great start in his debut WRC event for M-Sport, running inside the top ten as well.

SS4 – Swietajno -1 (19.60km)

1 Latvala 9:47.3 (126.7kph)

2 Tanak        +1.3

3 Ogier        +3.0

Last stage of the morning and Andreas would suffer broken rear suspension on his Citroen C3 after hitting a tree sump. With the quickest time on this stage, Thierry would move back into second place, now just 4.5 seconds behind the lead Toyota driver. There were further changes in the top ten with Hayden moving into fifth place and Elfyn Evans back into ninth.

SS5 – Stare Juchy -1 (13.50km)

1 Neuville 6:54.8 (130kph)

2 Latvala       +1.9

3 Tanak         +3.2

Service gave Citroen Racing the opportunity to fix the suspension on Andreas car.

 

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)

 

Stage 6 was cancelled. This was because spectators did not listen to the safely marshals, and stood in a prohibited area. Not good at all.

 

Young Finn Teemu, would take his first stage victory beating Hayden by seven tenths of a second. Very impressive indeed. There was a change in position between Ott and Thierry as well, with the Hyundai driver losing time and falling to third on the overall leaderboard.

SS7 – Wieliczki -2 (15.05km)

1 Suninen 7:47.9 (128.6kph)

2 Paddon     +0.7

3 Tanak         +1.2

However, on the following stage, with Thierry taking the stage win, it was all change on the overall positions again, with Ott moving to the top and now just 1.7 seconds covering the top three as well.

SS8 – Swietajno -2 (19.60km)

1 Neuville 10:03.3 (114kph)

2 Sordo            +1.2

3 Suninen      +3.4

The following stage was also won by the Belgian and this meant that with Ott third fastest and Jari-Matti sixth, Thierry moved into the lead from third!

SS9 – Stare Juchy -2 (13.50km)

1 Neuville 7:07.4 (111.4kph)

2 Paddon      +1.5

3 Tanak         +3.2

Last stage of the day and Elfyn would show that he was a master of this short stage, winning again just like Thursday evening.

SS10 – Super Special Stage Mikolajki Arena -2 (2.50km)

1 Evans    1:44.3 (120kph)

2 Tanak      +0.5

3 Neuville  +0.7

The first day then had its mix of lead changes, car problems and accidents. With Seb first on the road, he would struggle to stay with those whose road position would give them an advantage, but he was still within 35 seconds of the lead.

Top Ten Day 1

1  Neuville       56:21.2

2  Tanak                 +1.3

3  Latvala             +6.6

4  Ogier               +35.1

5  Paddon         +39.6

6  Sordo              +51.7

7  Suninen      +1:11.0

8  Hanninen +1:28.9

9️  Lefebvre  +1:37.0

10 Ostberg  +1:42.7

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers, starting with the top three.

Thierry Neuville commented: (1st)

“It’s been a good start to this rally for us, even if the conditions have been very demanding throughout the day. We started this morning with a very good stage win but the rain made it difficult to correctly read the grip levels. To take the team’s 50th stage win of the season in SS5 was a nice way to finish the morning loop. We added another two wins in the afternoon as the conditions improved. At the start of the loop there was a lot of standing water in the ruts and no driving line to follow. Overall, though, I am very happy and the car has performed excellently. The fight for the lead has been close and I don’t expect that to change over the next two days. We’re in a good position but there’s a lot more to come from everyone and more surprises I’m sure.”

Ott Tänak (2nd) said:

“It’s been an extremely tricky day today, but the Polish roads are always enjoyable. It’s a really tight battle and I’m sure that tomorrow will be interesting with a lot of new stages. We just need to keep our focus and continue as we have today.

“This was only the first day of competition and with the conditions as extreme as they were there was no need to go flat-out. For sure we need to keep the speed up so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow – when the conditions will hopefully be a little drier so that we can really enjoy these mega stages!”

Jari-Matti Latvala (3rd) said:

“The morning was very good. I was happy with the car: it was working really well in the fast sections, and it was also OK in the more slippery sections. The afternoon was not so good: I didn’t go so well in the ruts, which were quite big because of the rain. We will look at what changes we can make but it’s difficult to know in these conditions. With everyone so close, it will be an exciting day tomorrow. We will be ready to fight from the first stage onwards.”

Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Antilla, Toyota Yaris WRC. PHOTO : @World

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

“It’s been a really tough day and we suffered quite a lot this afternoon. Being the first car on the road there was so much standing water and so many ruts which lost us a lot of time. I really tried to push but there was nothing we could do when faced with these sorts of conditions.

“If it had kept raining all day then we would have had more constant speed – like we did through the morning loop. But that’s how it is and tomorrow is another day. We’ll keep fighting.”

Teemu Suninen (7th) said:

“We’ve had a good day and of course it was nice to get our first stage victory this afternoon.

“We know that we can be competitive over some sections and some stages, but the aim is to keep doing that consistently. I’ve had a stage win, but I want more and that means we must continue to work.

“We’ve learnt a lot and were able to improve quite a lot over the second pass. Tomorrow, we just need to continue with the same objective – more good work with no mistakes.”

Teemu Suninen, M-Sport WRT – PHOTO : @World

Hyundai Motorsport

Hayden Paddon (5th) said:

“After the rain, we expected very tricky, muddy conditions this morning, and that’s exactly what we got. Given our later road position, we couldn’t manage much more than fifth by lunchtime service. The grip was changing from one corner to the next, and it felt like driving on ice at times. The team made some changes at lunch, which transformed the car; I had more confidence to push and a competitive feeling, which was shown by our improved stage times.  When we’re on a level playing field, we can definitely be up there with the front-runners, so I’m hoping for better weather as the weekend continues, so we can enjoy these incredibly fast and fun stages. I’m definitely not here to settle for fifth!”

2017 FIA World Rally Championship
Round 08, Rally Poland
29 June-02 July 2017
Hayden Paddon – Seb Marshall, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: RaceEMotion
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Dani Sordo (6th) said: “If I am totally honest, I found this morning very difficult and not at all to my liking. The wet conditions made the stages changeable and erratic. I just could not get into a rhythm. We had to concentrate on completing the loop without any issues, which we did. Conditions improved on the afternoon loop and I had more control over the car. It just felt more ‘normal’ and there was a better feeling. We have lost some time as a result of the morning struggles, but there’s a long way to go in this rally and I hope we can have a more consistent Saturday.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Juho Hänninen (8th)

“Quite a difficult day with really tricky conditions on the stages. The morning went a bit better, we had no problems and no mistakes. This afternoon I was struggling with the ruts, we had the ride height a bit too low and there was so much mud on the dampers that we couldn’t raise it between the stages. Hopefully tomorrow can be better, and maybe a bit drier.”

Esapekka Lappi, Toyota Yaris WRC – PHOTO : @World

Esapekka Lappi (Ret)

“Everything was going smoothly. OK, it was difficult for sure, it was so muddy, but we found a pretty good pace to drive at. Then on one long right-hand corner, I cut slightly too much and there was a rock which I didn’t have on the pace-notes, and it broke the suspension. It was my mistake. I need to learn from this. It is unfortunate we can’t continue because the more kilometres I do, the better I get: before the incident I felt comfortable with the car and the setup was really good.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (11th) said:

“We didn’t want extreme conditions this weekend, but that’s exactly what we got and we’ve just had to manage as best we can. It’s been really tricky out there and the inconsistent grip levels made it really difficult to judge.

“It was nice to take another stage win this evening, and let’s just wait and see what conditions we’re faced with tomorrow.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stéphane Lefebvre (9th) said:

“It was a very difficult leg in terms of the conditions, but we managed to avoid making any major mistakes. It wasn’t all plain sailing this afternoon: I got my pace wrong on SS7 and the ride height was too low on SS8. But above all, I’m pleased to have matched Andreas’ times throughout the day and to be fighting for seventh place. If the weather is drier tomorrow, I think we can make up a place or two.”

Andreas Mikkelsen (12th) said:

“It was my first time in the car on muddy roads this morning and it was very difficult to get a sense of the handling. We made a few changes during the mid-leg service and that gave me more feeling for the level of grip. The conditions were also more even and that was reflected in the times. I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made today.

Craig Breen (26th) said:

“It’s been a miserable day. I was really motivated to have a good weekend, but we were let down by a mechanical issue on SS2. On the second pass, I just couldn’t find any confidence in the car. We’re going to press the ‘reset’ button now and let’s face it, tomorrow can only get better!”

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg (10th) said:

“I couldn`t get the car to turn in during the first loop of stages and it was extremely difficult in the mud. We changed the set-up on the front diff during service and that made a great improvement as we got rid of most of the understeering. Basically, this was my first experience with this car on wet and slippery roads as we have had limited testing and only in the dry.”

“The conditions today have been horrible in places and I don`t think it will be as difficult tomorrow. But it has rained heavily in the whole area and it will for sure be slippery also tomorrow. The character of the stages is also a bit different from today. We will continue working with the set-up for further improvements, so I`m looking forward to a better day overall.”

Mads Ostberg, Ola Floene, Jipocar WRT – PHOTO : @World

 

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)

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny. I imagine this lifted the confidence of the Citroen drivers and who really struggled in the muddy conditions.

Jari-Matti hit the ground running, looking to get his Yaris WRC back in the lead. Thierry was less than eight tenths slower, so the gap didn’t reduce much. Ott was right there, but his four-time champion teammate lost more ground to the overall leader. Craig and last year’s winner, Andreas in their C3’s definitely were doing a better job in the dryer conditions.

SS11 – Baranowo -1 (15.55km)

1 Latvala 8:02.2 (112.5kph)

2 Neuville  +0.8

3 Tanak       +2.1

Ott hit the front of the leaderboard after his performance through stage 12. Thierry could only manage fourth fastest, 6.1 seconds slower and finding himself now 3.5 seconds behind Ott. Hayden also passed Seb who could only manage 13th fastest and was now a minute and ten seconds behind Ott.

SS12 – Pozezdrze -1 (21.24km)

1 Tanak 10:39.8 (126kph)

2 Paddon   +3.0

3 Latvala   +4.0

Hayden would win the next stage, and he was closing the gap to the front runners as well. The battle for the lead continued between Thierry and Ott, with just four tenths separating them at the end of this stage. Seb continued to fall down the field, ending the stage behind Dani, and Stephane in his C3 and Mads at the wheel of his Fiesta both passed Juho Hanninen who fell to tenth overall.

SS13 – Gołdap-1 (14.75km)

1 Paddon 7:24.1 (120kph)

2 Neuville    +1.4

3 Tanak        +1.8

Thierry won the next stage and moved into the lead, after Ott could only manage the third fastest time. Stephane and Andreas also found good pace through this stage, so perhaps Citroen were finding their feet.

SS14 – Kruklanki -1 (19.58km)

1 Neuville 10:08.5 (114kph)

2 Latvala         +3.2

3 Tanak           +4.4

 

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)

 

After the service break, the Belgian increased his lead after winning stage 15 and it seemed that now he would continue to pull away from Ott. Seb closed the gap of Dani Sordo from around seven seconds to just three tenths of a second! A mighty drive from the champion.

SS15 – Baranowo -2 (15.55km)

1 Neuville 7:47.9 (128.6kph)

2 Tanak          +1.7

3 Latvala      +3.8

There was drama on the following stage for two of the top three. Jari-Matti pulled over in the stage, when his car just stopped and Thierry suffered a puncture. He lost 22.9 seconds and dropped behind Ott but was still in second place overall, with the Estonian now 14.4 seconds ahead. Hayden won the stage, moving into the podium positions, from a resurgent Seb who had now moved ahead of Dani and into fourth overall. Jari-Matti had now dropped right out of the battle for the podium after his car breakdown. In fact, he was now not even in the top ten.

SS16 – Pozezdrze -2 (21.24km)

1 Paddon 10:23.4 (126kph)

2 Ogier            +2.7

3 Sordo          +4.8

Leader, Ott, lost a bundle of time, 8.8 seconds to stage 17 winner Hayden who was really enjoying some quality pace, and with Thierry just half a second slower than his Kiwi teammate, Ott’s lead was now 6.1 seconds. The young Frenchman, Lefebvre came through third fastest.

SS17 – Gołdap -2 (14.75km)

1 Paddon 7:20.8 (120kph)

2 Neuville   +0.5

3️ Lefebvre +3.2

Thierry won the next stage and with Ott 8.6 seconds slower, the Belgian moved back into the lead. Hayden was closing on Ott as well. The Citroen in the hands of Lefebvre was showing some pace as well, with his second consecutive top three time. Further down the leaderboard, Andreas in his C3 had moved ahead of Juho into tenth place.

SS18 – Kruklanki -2 (19.58km)

1 Neuville 10:02.1 (114kph)

2 Paddon      +0.5

3️ Lefebvre    +2.7

Last stage of the day, and it was Elfyn once again who showed that he had this stage figured out. No-one had been faster around this one, with all three going to the welsh wizard. Thierry and Andreas rounded out the top three.

SS19 – Super Special Stage Mikolajki Arena -3 (2.50km)

1 Evans       1:44.4 (120kph)

2 Neuville      +0.2

3️ Mikkelsen +0.4

The biggest loser from the day had to be Jari-Matti, who was right in the hunt for the podium spots, but his car had stopped. Nothing to do with him at all. Hayden had enjoyed a very good afternoon.

 

Let’s hear then from the drivers.

Top Ten Day 2

1    Neuville 2:10:26.3

2    Tanak                +3.1

3    Paddon         +25.5

4    Ogier           +1:32.0

5    Sordo          +1:43.8

6    Suninen     +2:06.2

7️   Lefebvre     +2:20.3

8    Ostberg     +2:45.8

9    Evans           +3:23.1

10 Mikkelsen  +3:34.6

Thierry Neuville (1st) commented:

“It has been a pretty intense day, one way or another. We had a solid morning loop and it was developing into a fun, close battle at the front. We lost the lead in the first stages but gained it back with a big push in SS14 (Kruklanki). It was almost a pointless loop because we held the same lead at the end as we did at the start! We were determined not to give up, so we pushed hard when we could and started the afternoon with a stage win. Unfortunately, we then picked up a rear-left puncture that cost us a lot of seconds in SS16 (Pozezdrze). Ott was also suffering with his own issues, so we had to use that opportunity to make up the lost time. In the penultimate stage, it started to rain a lot on our run and we struggled, we were really unlucky. Thankfully, we still set the fastest time and retook the lead. We don’t have a huge time advantage so we won’t be able to take it easy on Sunday. The win is still very much open and I am sure Ott will be hunting us down.”

Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Ott Tänak (2nd) said:

“It’s been an interesting day with a lot of things happening so it’s good to still be in a close battle at the top.

“We lost the rear wing this afternoon and that made things really tough. There’s so much aero on these new cars and they make a really big difference – so when you lose the biggest part I can tell you that it is not easy!

“We tried the best we could and made some set-up changes to make it more comfortable to drive. It was still extremely difficult, but Thierry also had a problem and the battle is still on.

“We need to keep fighting as he has also been very strong this weekend. We’re still in the fight and it looks as though we’re in for a really exciting day tomorrow – with the weather making it interesting as well.”

Ott Tanak, M-Sport Fiesta WRC – PHOTO : @World

Hayden Paddon (3rd) said:

“We have had far better conditions today, especially this morning, and that gave us a more even playing field and more confidence in the car. We could really set about getting down to business and just enjoying the driving. We took a stage win in Goldap and were looking solid in fourth place with big margins ahead and behind us. We were focused only on securing that position, which would be so important for the championship. We added two more stage wins in the afternoon and moved up into third overall after Jari-Matti’s problem. I am sorry for him, but at the same time I am happy to have the chance for a podium here, which would be an unexpected, but very welcome result.”

M-Sport WRT

Sébastien Ogier (4th) said:

“Today was not an easy day. We had a lot of things to deal with, but I’m happy to be here at the end of the day and the most important thing is that we are still in with a chance of scoring some good and important points for the championship.”

Teemu Suninen (6th) said:

“It’s been another positive day and we’ve learnt a lot, but I need to learn how to improve my driving through the ruts. I’m really enjoying it, but I want to keep improving. I know that we can be fast in certain stages and in certain sections, but I need to learn more so that we can get the consistency and be competitive all weekend.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (5th) said:

“We were able to stretch our legs a bit today with improved stage conditions and more confidence in the car. We were able to push flat out in some stages. It was fun being in close competition with Ogier. We managed to get past him towards the end of the morning loop, and did all we could to defend the position. The final two stages were not as good. I made a big mistake in a hairpin in SS17 (Goldap), which cost us time, and then towards the end of SS18 (Kruklanki) we picked up a puncture. We were lucky it was at the end of the stage, really. There is still everything to play for on Sunday.”

Dani Sordo, Marc Martí, Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
Photographer: Helena El Mokni
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stéphane Lefebvre (7th) said:

“I think I had a good day today – it was certainly my best day in the Citroën C3 WRC. It wasn’t easy to find the right pace or the right set-up as we went from one stage to another but all in all, everything went well and I was able to push without taking any major risks. I’ll remained focused and ready to take advantage of the slightest opportunity to move further up the overall standings. There are still four stages to go!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (10th) said:

“I’m pleased with our performance on today’s leg. From the word go, on the opening stage, the car seemed quick in these conditions. Of course, we continued to work in order to keep improving. I held back slightly on the second pass, because I didn’t want to risk a puncture in the ruts.”

Craig Breen ( 13th) said:

“I felt a lot more comfortable in the C3 WRC today. I was able to start building my confidence as we got through the stages. It wasn’t easy given that I was running first on the road. I had to cope with the changes in grip and I ended up making a few mistakes. I hope the experience acquired this weekend will be useful for me in Finland.”

Jipocar WRT

Mads Østberg (8th) said:

“We are still learning and I`m really surprised how sensitive this car is when it comes to set-up adjustments. I must admit we have gone a bit wrong on set-up during the test before the rally. The front diff was adjusted yesterday that and cured some of the understeering problems. But we have also been too soft on damping and we have been working with that today. Now the car actually works quite well and we are much more competitive.”

“As it is now we are in a bit of a vacuum and it will be difficult to improve our position during the short Sunday. We will continue working with the car, but it’s a pity that this is how the car should have been when I started the rally. Then we could have been much more competitive”

 

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (9th) said:

“It’s not been a perfect day, but it’s certainly been better. The drier conditions improved things for us today. The stages were still pretty slippery this morning but I think we found a benefit in some sections this afternoon.

“It’s looking like it’s going to be wet again tomorrow so another difficult day for us out on the stages. We’ll just focus on getting through cleanly and perfecting the notes for the next time.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (Ret) said:

“I’m very disappointed that we had to retire for the day. On SS16 I had to stop due to technical reasons. So that was it for the day for us. Up to then my feeling with the car was good. We’ve lost a valuable opportunity to score points that would have been important for the championship. Still, the only thing we can do is fight back now, because we never give up, and I’m looking forward to returning to action tomorrow.”

Juho Hänninen (11th) said:

“This was quite a frustrating day for us but the most important thing is that we are still here at the end of it and of course with the problems for our team mates now it’s important that we get to the finish and try to score some points. To drive around the turbo boost problem, I had to keep the engine revs high, but it was OK: we knew what to do. The afternoon was OK, but then we had the slow puncture that cost us some time. On the last stages of the day the ruts were really deep: it was a real struggle to put the power down. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow.”

 

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)

 

Sunday morning dawned, and we had three stages left. Who would win? It was raining again as well. Ott started well, winning stage 20 and retaking the lead. After last year’s disappointment with the puncture, he wasn’t going to let this go. Re-joining under Rally2 rules, Jari-Matti showed how good the combination of him, Miika and the Yaris have been this year. Such a shame they dropped out with the technical problem. Further down, Mads closed the gap a little to Lefebvre who was the Norwegians target.

SS20 – Orzysz -1 (11.15km)

1 Tanak   6:10.3 (110kph)

2 Neuville +4.9

3 Latvala +13.3

Ott’s big push came to nought unfortunately in stage 21. He hit something on the side of the road with the rear of the car and the car spun, putting the front into a tree. He finished the stage, but the damage was too great to continue. Andreas and Lefebvre also had their own problems, with the Norwegian overshooting a junction and for some reason the young Frenchman ended up with a tool under his feet and he hit a fence because of that. Juho Hanninen benefitted from Andreas’ mistake, moving into the top ten. The Hyundai team were now looking at a one-two finish, as Hayden took up second position.

SS21 – Paprotki -1 (18.68km)

1 Neuville    8:58.1 (135kph)

2 Latvala        +8.8

3️ Lefebvre  +18.7

Thierry was now in the lead, with a gap of just over a minute to his Kiwi teammate. Seb had now moved into a podium position with the demise of his teammate, and Andreas had moved into tenth place.

SS22 – Orzysz -2 (11.15km)

1 Neuville  6:02.6 (110kph)

2 Latvala       +0.5

3️ Mikkelsen +2.2

The final stage then and Jari-Matti flew through it to win the maximum 5 points from the stage, with Seb in second and Andreas third, all former Volkswagen WRC drivers. Frenchman, Stephane in his C3 was fourth through here, meaning that on the overall leaderboard he’d demoted Teemu in the M-Sport Fiesta into sixth place. Andreas had also demoted Juho from ninth to tenth after going through the stage 15 seconds faster.

 

SS23 – Paprotki -2 (Power Stage) (18.68km)

1 Latvala    8:57.5 (135kph)

2 Ogier           +4.9

3️ Mikkelsen +5.3

4  Lefebvre  +6.3

5  Neuville    +6.4

 

Overall after SS23

1   Neuville  2:40:46.1

2   Paddon      +1:23.9

3   Ogier           +2:20.8

4   Sordo          +2:47.4

5️  Lefebvre      +3:11.8

6   Suninen      +3:16.8

7   Ostberg     +3:39.6

8   Evans           +4:39.1

9️  Mikkelsen  +4:43.5

10 Hanninen  +4:53.7

Well, Thierry now has three victories this year and is only 11 points behind Seb in the championship fight. Big shame for Ott, who was right in the fight for victory. Hayden drove a well measured rally to secure his first podium of the year and with it Seb Marshall’s first WRC podium as well. Seb Ogier should count himself lucky that he scored a podium here, because he was well off the pace. You can’t argue with his consistency though.

Let’s hear then from all the drivers starting with the podium.

Thierry Neuville (1st) commented:

“What a great result for the whole team! I am really delighted for everyone involved. It was a closely fought battle this weekend, as it seems to have been for the past few events. It was certainly a relief to retake the lead after Ott’s retirement this morning, as it allowed us some breathing space in the final stages. We could take it easy and relax – not too much – but enough to finish the rally calmly and to secure this great result. Our goal for the weekend was to outscore Séb, which we did, and we have closed the gap in the championship for the second rally in a row. We have to continue in this way but for now we can enjoy our third win of the season, and celebrate with the team who have worked so hard for this result.”

Hayden Paddon (2nd) said:

“I can’t tell you how relieved I am with this result. It feels like a win after the season we have had so far. We have had some really difficult moments so to finish second as part of a fantastic team result is very special. It’s like a weight has been lifted. This morning’s final stages have required a lot of commitment to drive slowly and cleanly in tough conditions. We were focused on third place, but to take second, of course as a result of Ott’s misfortune, is an added bonus. We still have some speed to find compared to the guys at the front, but it sets us up nicely for Finland – and beyond. Finally, a word of thanks to Seb for a job well done this weekend, and congratulations to him for his first WRC podium.”

Sébastien Ogier (3rd) said:

“This weekend was really tough for us so to come away with a podium is more than we expected.

“Of course, I’m sorry for Ott – he had really good speed this weekend and deserved to be on the podium, but that is the way it goes sometimes.

“We had a lot to contend with and it’s fair to say that the good luck hasn’t really been on our side. But we made the most of it and secured some good points which is really important for the championship.

“Now I can enjoy my holiday and come back ready for what is sure to be another exciting battle at Rally Finland.”

Hyundai Motorsport

Dani Sordo (4th) said:

“It has been a difficult weekend with some tricky conditions but overall it has been positive. I am really pleased for the team, as we’ve collected a lot of points for the championship. Fourth place is not bad, but I am always aiming to perform better and to be competing for the podium in each event. I will try to do better in Finland, but for now I think we can be satisfied with our Poland weekend, and consider it a job well done for the team.”

Citroen Abu Dhabi WRT

Stéphane Lefebvre (5th) said:

“It’s a morale-boosting result for everyone after such a difficult start to the season. I’d like to thank the team, who have never stopped supporting me, and my engineer, who helped me to put together the best rally of my career so far. Whenever there was enough grip, I felt sufficiently confident to push. I won’t be competing in the next two rallies, but I can head off on holiday in good spirits!”

Andreas Mikkelsen (9th) said:

“The stages were more enjoyable on the second pass, because the grip was better. We pushed and I’m pleased to finish the rally like this, with a good time on the Power Stage. I’m looking forward to testing the C3 WRC on tarmac in preparation for Rally Deutschland.”

Craig Breen (11th) said:

“This weekend has been one of the most difficult of my career and I’m just glad to make it to the end. We all worked hard to improve the car, but I never managed to feel really confident. We’re going to do some testing before Finland, so that will help me to prepare well for the rally where I scored my first podium last year.”

M-Sport WRT

Teemu Suninen (6th) said:

“It’s disappointing to lose a place on the last stage with a small mistake, but okay, that’s the way it goes sometimes and I think that it has still been a good weekend for us.

“We’ve learnt a lot and it was nice to get a fastest stage time on Friday. I think we’ve shown good speed through certain sections, but there remains work to do to keep that speed up for the whole weekend.

“I want to improve and now I’m looking forward to my home rally in Finland where we can hopefully take another step forward.”

Ott Tänak (DNF) said:

“What can I say? Obviously, it’s really disappointing to have finished the rally like this and I am just so sorry for the team and all of the fans who came here to support us.

“We were ready for the fight and had a really good run through the first stage this morning. We were pushing hard, but it was a clean run and I would say almost a perfect stage for us.

“Then on the next stage, there was just one really slippery place in the forest. We touched the bank with the rear of the car and that pulled the front into a spin and into the trees. There was too much damage to continue, and that is where our Rally Poland came to an end.

“It was one of those things, and we’ll be back stronger. This one wasn’t to be, but we know that we have the performance and now it’s all focus on Finland.”

Jipocar WRT

The goal for Mads and his privateer team was to get through the event without any technical problems, and they certainly did that.

Mads Østberg (7th) said

“That was actually the goal before this event, to finish without the technical problems that has hampered us earlier this year. The set-up wasn`t ideal when we started the rally, but we have worked through all three days and made it much better. This will give us a good base for the next rally in Finland, which is also on superfast gravel roads.”

They wanted a good base level for Rally Finland, as this is the next rally.

“We have been struggling a bit more on the narrow and slippery stuff, but we have worked hard to get a good set-up for the really wide and fast parts. And of course, Rally Finland is for most parts run on wider roads, so we can bring with us a good base for the set-up from Poland. It also gives us a positive feeling from a rally where I have struggled a bit before. It can only be better in Finland.”

D-Mack WRT

Elfyn Evans (8th) said:

“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.

“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.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Jari-Matti Latvala (20th) said:

“Of course, it was disappointing to retire on Saturday but it was important that we came back and managed to win the Power Stage. I was focusing a lot before the stage, going through all the corners and the braking points in my mind, and it paid off. We scored five more points and it gives me the confidence again that our car is very fast and we can challenge our rivals in the rallies that are coming up. Thanks to the team for the work to prepare my car to restart today and ensure we could get these five points. They could still be very valuable in the championship.”

Juho Hänninen (10th) said:

“It has been a challenging weekend. The conditions were very difficult. When it was really slippery, on the harder ground, we actually had decent pace, but in the softer ground with the deep ruts we were losing quite a bit of time and it was frustrating. We will try to improve this for the future. Luckily, Rally Finland is next and I am sure this will be better, as we will have a good test beforehand.”

So, it’s the big one next! Rally Finland! Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle will return in their number 7 C3 WRC, to the place that they won so amazingly last year. What chance another victory to re-start their season? Hayden and Seb had a very good Rally Poland, getting their first podium together. Teemu Suninen will also take part in Finland, and just like Esapekka Lappi, has a good chance of making a long career at the top of the rally world.

Seb will want to get back to winning ways in Finland as well, so the battle for the championship will continue between him and Thierry.

Here’s the full championship standings for the drivers and teams.

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round eight:

1 Sebastien Ogier    160

2 Thierry Neuville    149

3 Jari-Matti Latvala 112

4 Ott Tanak                 108

5 Dani Sordo                82

6 Elfyn Evans               57

7 Hayden Paddon      51

8 Craig Breen              43

9 Juho Hänninen        30

10 Kris Meeke             27

13 Esapekka Lappi   20

 

2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round eight:

1 M-Sport World Rally Team                                 259

2 Hyundai Motorsport                                              237

3 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing WRT                          153

4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 117

 

Warren Nel

7th July 2017