PREVIEW: Rally of Poland, WRC-7
- 27th June 2016, 5:42am
Halfway point in the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship is Rajd Polski (Rally Poland), the second longest running event currently in the WRC, but which is only being run as a qualifying event for the fifth time.
Main change this year is that the title sponsor now is PZM (Polish Motor Union, the national federation) replacing the Lotos group of companies. For the third time the event is based at Mikolajki in the northern Polish lakes district and on the second day goes to the far north region bordering Russia, for a day without midday service.
The stages are in flat country, very fast (the second fastest rally in the WRC behind Finland) and soft surfaced, quite different to the rocky stages in recent WRC events. Often short stretches of farmland roads are linked by public roads to make longer stages.
Soft tyres are the preferred option, and this is a rally that wear is not critical, though there has been a recent rule change increasing the maximum allocation available for the R5 and S2000 cars
67 crews have entered this seventh round of this year’s series, the entry on this occasion including the Junior WRC and the Drive DMack Fiesta Trophy competitors each for the second time this year. 26 drivers (all except two in R5 cars) form the WRC2 category and all the top six drivers in the series (in which drivers are only eligible for points seven times) have entered.
Elfyn Evans leads the series with seven points advantage over Nicolas Fuchs, both of them having already competed four times. Teemu Suninen is five points behind having competed only three times, while Pontus Tidemand is fourth, 19 points behind Evans after only two events.
Twelve drivers have entered this event in the complicated WRC3 series, in which competitors in the Junior WRC series are eligible. Michel Fabre has a 27 point lead after entering the first four events of the season, hoping for a tactical advantage before the JWRC drivers arrived.
Coming as a surprise, the Peugeot 208 R2 drivers Fabio Andolfi and Domiano de Tommaso are lying second and third after three events, but will not take part this time. The JWRC is currently led by Simone Tempestini.
Among the non championship entries, Ukraine driver Oleksiy Tamrazov is contesting his first WRC event after a three year gap, while ADAC Opel Junior team driver, Marijan Griebel, has entered his Adam R2. Top seeded Polish driver is WRC2 driver Hubert Ptaszek, but European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz makes his first ever entry on a WRC entry.
Unfortunately there are no entries for Robert Kubica or Krzysztof Holowczyc.
Despite a run of four successive events in which the first running drivers have been at a disadvantage, reigning world champion Sebastier Ogier, by regulations committed to running first car for the two first full days, continues to pull ahead in the world drivers’ championship.
He is now 64 points ahead of Dani Sordo (demoted for this event to the team’s secondary WRC team, despite four successive fourth places) with Andreas Mikkelsen one point back.
Battling for fourth place are Mads Ostberg, Hayden Paddon and Jari-Matti Latvala, with only two points between them.
Ogier’s agonies continue with Poland expected again to disadvantage him. His overall results on the first six events have gradually deteriorated, starting from two wins, moving to two seconds and then two third places.
In the manufacturers’ championship, Volkswagen’s premier team leads Hyundai Motorsport by 70 points, with M-Sport 18 points behind.
Abu Dhabi Total World Rally Team has entered just their two young drivers, Stephane Lefebvre and Craig Breen, without a more experienced driver acting as performance reference. Breen is to drive the famous chassis 317, the DS3 that has already won 11 WRC events in the hands of Loeb and also Meeke, far more than any other car in the history of the sport.
Lefebvre competed at Ypres the weekend before the event, while both drivers attended a physical training camp the week before the rally.
Among the JWRC entries, lack of budget prevented Frederic Hauswald from entering this event, but the new official “Future Rally Star of Finland” Juuso Nordgren will compete in a JWRC car on the following JWRC event, in Finland.
Thierry Neuville, winner of the previous WRC event in a second level Mobis team car, is back in the main Shell team for this, event with Hayden Paddon, so that Dani Sordo is the Mobis team driver this time.
Neuville is back in the car he crashed in Mexico, while Paddon has the car in which Sordo finished fourth overall on the last four WRC events. Sordo has a new NG car for this event.
There are no 2015 cars on this event. His second place in Poland in 2009 (in a Citroen) is the best previous result for a member of the team on this rally.
The week before Poland, Hyundai Motorsport’s Customer Racing division introduced their R5 prototype car in Belgium, run by their new Customer division.
Same team cars as usual for Mads Ostberg and Eric Camilli. Ott Tanak has the same car as in Sardinia, Henning Solberg the famous old “submarine” car, now entered for its 39th WRC event!
Four day testing carried out at two locations at Orzysz and Pasym near Mikolajki. Busy time for WRC2 driver Elfyn Evans, three rallies in three weekends (British championship events before and after Poland).
Reason why Ostberg stopped in Sardinia was that the impact with the gatepost damaged a critical oil pressure component.
Main anticipated challenge in Poland, after adjusting to the very high speed nature of the route (last year’s winning average speed on the Polish Rally was more than 30kph faster than Sardinia!), is setting up cars for the much rougher conditions for the second passes through stages.
Same three cars as were last seen in Portugal for Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen. Dedicated two days test was carried out the week before the rally for Latvala and Mikkelsen, but not for Ogier, who was back home enjoying his new family responsibility.
The team explained how he was able to be back home in Germany in time for the birth of baby Tim by leaving Sardinia on the evening of the finish by private plane.
There are new extra responsibilities for the Team Manager Sven Smeets, now “Sporting Director” which include other motorsport operations such as Global rallycross programme.
Other extramural activities for Mikkelsen and his co-driver, Anders Jaeger, who contested the extremely physical Zugspity Ultratrail marathon in which they covered 82 kilometers in the required 24 hours.
- Martin Holmes
SUBSCRIBE BELOW TO READ THE FULL STORY
By clicking "Subscribe Now" you agree to receive news, offers and updates on RallySport Magazine. If you do not wish to receive marketing communications, you can update your preferences in My Account.
We will commence charging your payment method after the 7 day free trial expires. If you cancel after expiry of your trial, cancellation will take effect from the end of your current monthly subscription period. You will not be refunded any fees paid to RallySport Magazine unless otherwise set out in the terms and conditions.