Reigning FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier has pulled ahead of his Rally Poland rivals today and the Frenchman heads into Sunday’s final day of competition with just over a minute in hand to team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen. The Norwegian has simply been unable to consistently match Ogier’s pace but has never been more than 26 seconds adrift until dropping a mass of time with no brakes in the penultimate stage. He nevertheless has a comfortable advantage over third-placed Thierry Neuville, who has shot up the leaderboard from 10th last night.
Today’s route was the longest of the event and covered 10 stages and 161.58 competitive kilometres. Mikkelsen was hot on the pace from the outset, but even winning the first stage was not enough to keep Ogier behind and, in the following stage, an overshoot handed his rival a further 10 second advantage. With five stage wins to his credit today, Ogier was able to maintain his lead during a day of dramatic action that has put a number of his rivals on the sidelines and shuffled the leaderboard throughout the day.
Thierry Neuville has steadily climbed the leaderboard, the Belgian much happier with the handling of the car and confident to battle with team-mate Juho Hänninen, Robert Kubica and Mikko Hirvonen. He also benefitted when Kubica had a couple of punctures, lost time running wide and hitting a log pile and then ultimately retired after taking the right rear wheel off late this afternoon. Neuville moved into third this afternoon but remains in a close battle with Hirvonen who has climbed to fourth, the rivals split by mere seconds this evening. With an offset steering wheel, fifth-placed Hänninen has struggled this afternoon but he too is in the battle for third, as is Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn has had a traumatic day, however. In stage 14 – while trying to pass Kris Meeke who had gone off the road – he hit something, resulting in the damper popping through the bonnet. With no option but to continue through this stage and the next, the Finn dropped from third to seventh, enduring yet another heart-wrenching Rally Poland. He has recovered to sixth and is a mere four-tenths of a second behind Hänninen.
Hayden Paddon is seventh overnight ahead of Henning Solberg who has had a few moments today. Kris Meeke has had a bad day, dropping from fifth to ninth after going off the road and picking up a puncture. Team-mate Mads Østberg fared little better; he hit a rock, took a wheel off, rolled and retired from the event. Elfyn Evans was another retiree after damaging the suspension on the Fiesta RS WRC.
The final day of competition on Sunday takes in just four stages and 49.18 competitive kilometres.
LOTOS Rally Poland – Unofficial Results after Section 6