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DMACK World Rally Team driver Ott Tänak has inched into the lead of Rally Poland in the closing stages of the opening day after a tight battle at the top of the leaderboard. The Estonian heads Andreas Mikkelsen, who led for most of the day for Volkswagen Motorsport, but the battling duo are split by just 4.2 seconds tonight. Hayden Paddon heads the challenge for Hyundai and the Kiwi driver also remains within striking distance of the lead with only 10.2 seconds separating him from the number one slot.

The seventh round of the series got underway last night with a short super special stage, where Thierry Neuville set the pace in front of a crowd of thousands. Today, however, crews headed northeast of the rally base for two loops of four stages before returning to Mikołajki for a second run around the super special.

Tanak has been in the groove of the event from the outset; third fastest in last night’s super special set the Estonian up and he took the lead of the rally after Friday’s first stage. While he was overhauled by Mikkelsen in the following test, four fastest stage times later he had inched ahead of the Norwegian to lead a World Championship rally for DMACK for the first time. Mikkelsen had a good run this morning, fastest in the second stage, but struggled with understeer this afternoon. Set-up changes aided his charge and both he and Paddon are ensuring Tanak is pushed to the limit over the ultra-fast Polish stages. Paddon, another stage winner, leapt up the leaderboard from seventh to second this morning and despite admitting the repeated afternoon stages didn’t favour them, the Kiwi remains in the thick of the fight for outright honours after disappointing retirements in the previous two events.

Championship leader Sébastien Ogier has run without problems, pushing hard and successfully keeping within striking distance of the leading trio. Like everyone, the Frenchman had a tricky run over the rutted repeated stages but also took a slight benefit at the front of the field when hanging dust in the final long stage resulted in reduced visibility for those behind him. Throughout the leaderboard tight battles continue and Thierry Neuville is only 4.1 seconds behind the reigning World Champion. As road conditions got softer with the passage of cars this morning, Neuville was simply unable to push harder and struggled with the set-up and speed of his pace notes. He fared better this afternoon and has a good margin over Jari-Matti Latvala who has struggled to get into a good rhythm. The Finn also picked up a puncture and overnights in sixth.

DS3 WRC drivers Stephane Lefebvre and Craig Breen have been caught up in an inter-team battle for honours, both drivers having been out of World Rally Cars for some events. The Frenchman heads the Irishman by 1.7 seconds and both have put in an impressive performance to overnight in seventh and eighth respectively, especially considering their lack of seat time. Eric Camilli heads M-Sport’s assault on Rally Poland and for the Frenchman – who has contested so few gravel rallies – one of the fastest events on the calendar is undoubtedly a tough learning curve. He is however ahead of team-mate Mads Østberg in 10th.

In the FIA WRC 2 Championship Pontus Tidemand led the category for most of the day but the Swede stopped in stage nine with damaged suspension. As a consequence, fellow Skoda R5 driver Teemu Suninen assumed the lead and heads Esapekka Lappi by 4.6 seconds in similar machinery. The FIA Junior WRC Championship is headed by Simone Tempestini who has 12.8 seconds in hand to second-placed Ole Christian Veiby, early leader Andrea Crugnola hitting problems.

Rally Poland – Unofficial Classification after Section 3

1.   Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 01min 23.0sec

2.   Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 01min 27.2sec

3.   Hayden Paddon/John Kennard

Hyundai i20 WRC

1hr 01min 33.2sec

4.   Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 01min 39.3sec

5.   Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 WRC

1hr 01min 43.4sec

6.   Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila

Volkswagen Polo R WRC

1hr 01min 59.6sec

7.   Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau


1hr 02min 02.4sec

8.   Craig Breen/Scott Martin


1hr 02min 04.1sec

9.   Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 02min 21.6sec

10. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene

Ford Fiesta RS WRC

1hr 02min 29.7sec