The final day of Rally Poland was the shortest and took in just two stages, both run twice, but the conditions were far removed from the hot and sunny weather earlier in the week. Thick mud, deep ruts and standing water from persistent overnight rain resulted in sandy roads turning to treacherous stages, with many a crew hitting problems. Tanak started the day with a handy 21.3 second advantage over Mikkelsen and the Estonian looked set to secure his maiden win in the WRC until a puncture in the penultimate stage. The distraught crew dropped 40.5 seconds, handing their Norwegian rivals a last-minute victory, the second time Mikkelsen has secured an eleventh hour win after his dramatic victory in Spain last year. His first win on a full gravel rally also means he is the sixth different winner in as many events this season. Paddon was reasonably secure in third this morning and with only 6.5 seconds separating him and Mikkelsen, the New Zealander had everything to fight for. However, after two disappointing retirements in the previous events he was happy to maintain his podium position, although very nearly lost out to team-mate Thierry Neuville when he backed off in the tricky conditions, lacking confidence in the car. His podium was ultimately secured by a mere 0.8 seconds.
Neuville also took it a bit too steady in the slippery conditions today and then picked up a puncture in the penultimate stage. Ultimately, the Belgian confessed that his pace notes were too conservative in the first passage of the stages and this is where his rally was compromised. Behind him, Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Ogier were both within striking distance. Latvala won two of the day’s stages and Ogier claimed the win in the Power Stage to salvage 11 points from one of the toughest events for road cleaning so far this season. Behind the top six, Craig Breen performed brilliantly in his first out in the DS3 WRC since Rally Sweden. The Irish driver finished seventh after a great battle with team-mate Stephane Lefebvre, who ultimately dropped to ninth after spinning and clouting the rear wheel. He had to limp through stage 19 with the wheel virtually hanging off. Mads Østberg sandwiched the two Citroens and his team-mate Eric Camilli rounded off the top 10, the Frenchman losing time with an off at the end of the penultimate stage.
In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, Teemu Suninen took top honours after a great battle with Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi. In the end the Finnish Skoda driver won by nearly a minute after his rivals dropped time with punctures today. Simone Tempestini was the runaway winner in the Junior WRC Championship and the Italian won by nearly three and a half minutes.
The FIA World Rally Championship contenders now take a short summer break before heading to Finland for another of the fastest gravel rallies in the series.
Rally Poland – Provisional Final Classification
|1. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger||Volkswagen Polo R WRC||2hr 37min 34.4sec|
|2. Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||2hr 38min 00.6sec|
|3. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard||Hyundai i20 WRC||2hr 38min 02.9sec|
|4. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 WRC||2hr 38min 03.7sec|
|5. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila||Volkswagen Polo R WRC||2hr 38min 08.2sec|
|6. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia||Volkswagen Polo R WRC||2hr 38min 14.7sec|
|7. Craig Breen/Scott Martin||DS3 WRC||2hr 39min 35.8sec|
|8. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||2hr 40min 39.0sec|
|9. Stephane Lefebvre/Gabor Moreau||DS3 WRC||2hr 42min 46.4sec|
|10. Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||2hr 42min 57.5sec|