Eight stages, six changes in Volkswagen drivers as the leaderHigh speed through Poland and Lithuania – average speeds of up to 137 km/hFour fastest times for Ogier/Ingrassia, two for Mikkelsen/Fløene
Not for the faint-hearted: the duel being played out between Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) and Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) is adding some real suspense to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in Rally Poland. The two Volkswagen duos driving the Polo R WRC #1 and #9 have battled it out over the first 93.45 of the rally’s 304.21 kilometres. In the eight special stages held so far, the rally lead has alternated between the reigning world champion and the pretender to the throne from his own camp no less than six times, and the time difference between the two most dominant drivers in Rally Poland has not fallen below three seconds. With two more rally days to go, Ogier/Ingrassia currently have a lead of 0.9 seconds – or 29.59 metres. Their teammates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) in the third Polo R WRC demonstrated that they were in peak form too, moving up from eighth to fourth place, which now puts them within striking distance of a podium finish.
Two of Friday’s special stages had to be cancelled by the Rally Poland organisers. A decision was taken not to hold the second runs of two of the stages held in Lithuania due to large potholes and tyre tracks, and also for safety reasons due to the huge numbers of spectators in places.
Quotes after dFriday, Rally Poland
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1“Obviously, I’m more than happy with today’s outcome. Julien and I are in the lead – albeit only just, with our teammates Andreas Mikkelsen and Ola Fløene right behind us. Tomorrow is the penultimate day of Rally Poland and I’m looking forward to engaging in a great duel with Andreas. But as far as the WRC is concerned, it’s just as important for me to finish ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala. It’s a shame for the fans that the afternoon stages had to be cancelled, but the organisers made the right decision. The track conditions were very bad – there were deep furrows in the tracks and they were crumbling. Already this morning, there were some sections that were barely passable because they were wet from the night and the morning mist. You can see on the photos that a tractor would probably have been more use than a rally car.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2“After yesterday, we changed our vehicle set-up, which allowed us to advance a bit and we gradually improved. This is a good basis for us to build on over the next few days and gives us the chance to fight for a podium position. My teammates Andreas Mikkelsen and Sébastien Ogier are really fast and we definitely can’t beat them. But I’m in the middle of a fight with Mads Østberg for third place. We need to bear in mind that the points aren’t dished out until the end of the rally – and we definitely want to pick up some points in order to increase our chances overall in the WRC.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9“We’re enjoying every metre of this rally. Ola and I even have beaming smiles on our faces at some points during the special stages because driving here in Poland is hugely enjoyable. These are my kind of special stage, I’ve been hitting a good line and our pace notes are accurate. I have a lot of self-confidence and I can’t really go much faster than I did today. But we also know that there’s still a lot of the rally to go and that we need to keep our wits about us. The duel with my teammate Sébastien Ogier is fantastic and I’m sure it’s very entertaining for the fans too. But we will continue to try to drive cleanly and not take too many risks.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director“There’s no doubt about it – Andreas Mikkelsen and Sébastien Ogier are in a class of their own here in Rally Poland. Both of them are demonstrating what they and the Polo R WRC are capable of. With the stretches being smooth and very fast, it’s a question of having a deep-seated belief in your own abilities, and confidence in your pace notes and the car. Jari-Matti Latvala regained this belief and confidence today and made good a couple of places. The lion’s share of the rally is still ahead of us, and we need to remain focused as a team as we work on turning the perfect starting point of positions one, two and four into results that actually count.”
And then there was ...
... the fastest special stage of the rally year so far. Not only did Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (N/N) temporarily take the lead in Rally Poland with their fastest time on the second run of the Wieliczki special stage – they also achieved the fastest average speed in the history of the Polo R WRC, clocking up an average pace of 136.88 km/h. Until now, the fastest special stage since Volkswagen entered the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) arena with the Polo R WRC in 2013 was the legendary Ouninpohja stage in the 2013 Rally Finland, where Sébastien Ogier achieved a record average speed of 130.75 km/h.