Sébastien Ogier has narrowly clinched the lead of Rally Poland this evening, the Frenchman just 2.8 seconds ahead of Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen after today’s short opening section. Third place is held by Kris Meeke with the crews closely bunched together at the head of the leaderboard.
LOTOS 71st Rally Poland got underway this afternoon with its ceremonial start in Mikołajki’s main square and the crews then headed directly to the first two stages before returning for the first of four runs around the 2.5 kilometre super special stage adjacent to the service park.
Behind the leading trio Juho Hänninen heads Hyundai’s assault, the Finn just eight-tenths of a second adrift of third place having set fastest time in the second stage. Mads Østberg is fifth with Thierry Neuville and Hayden Paddon sixth and seventh respectively in the other two factory i20 WRCs. Having set the pace at shakedown this morning, Jari-Matti Latvala has had a disappointing start to Rally Poland, an event that brings back heart-breaking memories from 2009 when he retired in the final stage, throwing away second position. He lost over 10 seconds in the opening 12.92 kilometre stage with a lack of confidence and then in the second stage struggled with the car’s handling under braking. Frustratingly, the Finn is already 23.5 seconds off the lead. Mikko Hirvonen is struggling in ninth with Martin Prokop 10th.
The most dramatic moments hit Rally Poland’s home grown talent; after an impressive fourth-fastest time in the first stage, Robert Kubica misjudged a jump and ended up rolling in a ditch. Remarkably the Pole lost less than 30 seconds and is 12th overnight. Multiple event winner and former FIA European Rally Champion Krzysztof Hołowczyc also went off the road but with less dramatic consequences. He is 16th overall after 34.28 kilometres of competition today.
Competition resumes on Friday morning but also takes the contenders into Lithuania, which hosts four of the day’s seven stages.
LOTOS Rally Poland – Unofficial Results after Section 1