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WRC – Neuville & Tänak battle it out


WRC - 2017 Rally Poland - Saturday morning

Thierry Neuville has maintained his advantage at the head of the Rally Poland leaderboard but the Belgian is battling hard with Ott Tänak who took the lead for two of the morning’s four stages. At the mid-leg service the rivals are split by 1.3 seconds with Jari-Matti Latvala holding station in third, albeit seemingly unable to consistently match their pace.

Saturday’s route covers another two loops of four stages before returning to Mikolajki for the final run around the super special stage. After yesterday’s persistent rain, the morning has been dry providing much less treacherous conditions for the crews as they fight for seconds over the fast gravel roads. Neuville, with the same advantage over Tänak last night, managed to extend his lead to 2.6 seconds after this morning’s opener, despite worrying he had picked up a puncture after hitting a rock. With Tänak setting the pace in the second stage and snatching the lead - despite an off - the Belgian then had to up the pace and with a final stage win in SS14 the Belgian re-took the number one slot as the crews headed into service. Tänak was again fastest in the third stage and is continuing to push hard as he battles for a second consecutive WRC victory.

Jari-Matti Latvala has been unable to fully match the pace of the leaders, despite being comfortable with the conditions and the feeling with the Yaris WRC. He is 9.5 seconds off the lead and now ahead of Hayden Paddon, the Kiwi up to fourth after Sébastien Ogier dropped time. Paddon lost the feeling with the brakes early this morning but is enjoying the more consistent conditions. Dani Sordo is up to fifth, also benefitting from Ogier’s problems, but he is only 6.8 seconds ahead of the Championship leader who picked up a slow puncture in the first stage, then another in the following stage. With the tyre off the rim, Ogier then spun and clouted a kerb, losing the front bumper, aero devices and therefore downforce. He dropped from fourth to fifth and then sixth with the on-going problem.

Teemu Suninen continues his fine run in the Fiesta WRC, his first outing in a 2017 specification car, and holds seventh ahead of the lead Citroën of Stéphane Lefebvre who was happy to get through the morning loop. Mads Østberg continues to push him hard but lost ground with an overshoot in the final stage. Juho Hänninen has had to get through the stages with an engine issue, meaning he’s had to be at high revs and the Finn rounds off the top 10. Elfyn Evans is 11th ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen who went off in the second stage. 

In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, Ole Christian Veiby continues to hold the advantage and the Norwegian heads category leader Pontus Tidemand by 13.6 seconds after three fastest times.