RALLY POLAND

JARI-MATTI LAT­VALA

Motor Sport News - - Round - Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­database.com

RALLY ES­SEN­TIALS

Day one: 77.31 miles; 11 stages Weather: over­cast then sunny 16-29 cel­sius ■ An­dreas Mikkelsen is fly­ing through the morn­ing stages, but can’t get com­fort­able with his VW Polo R WRC on the sec­ond run. He’s strug­gling with un­der­steer. ■ The Nor­we­gian’s set-up is­sue, al­lied to a mon­ster charge from Ott Tanak, mean the Es­to­nian moves into the lead with fastest time on SS8 and re­mains there for the rest of the day, mak­ing his­tory for the Drive DMACK World Rally Team, which leads a WRC round overnight for the first time. ■ Hay­den Pad­don’s no stranger to lead­ing ral­lies, but he has been a stranger to get­ting through Fri­day with­out fault. The Kiwi was re­lieved to end day one third with­out any is­sues. ■ Se­bastien Ogier’s pre-event jovi­al­ity at fa­ther­hood was un­der­stand­ably short-lived once it came to sweep­ing the stones aside for his ri­vals. Once again, the French­man has turned in a fan­tas­tic ef­fort to hold fourth – his main con­cern? The deeper gravel to come to­mor­row. The driver of the third fac­tory Polo, Jari-matti Lat­vala, wasn’t in the best of moods at the end of the day. He couldn’t find his fast head and was dropped by the com­pe­ti­tion, end­ing the day sixth be­hind Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai.

End of day one: 1 Tanak/ Molder 1h01m23.0s; 2 Mikkelsen/jaeger +4.2s; 3 Pad­don/ Ken­nard +10.2s; 4 Ogier/ In­gras­sia +16.3s; 5 Neuville/ Gil­soul +20.4s; 6 Lat­vala/anttila +36.6s

Day two: 77.41 miles; 7 stages Weather: sunny 20-34 cel­sius ■ Tanak en­joys the per­fect morn­ing, tak­ing a clean sweep of the first run at the north­ern stages, build­ing his lead to 18s at the half­way point. There are more hard DMACKS fit­ted to Tanak’s Fi­esta for the af­ter­noon and, while he misses out on the scratch times, he still adds to his ad­van­tage at the head of the field. ■ Mikkelsen’s car has un­der­gone some suspension tweaks and he’s hap­pier with the set-up – that con­fi­dence stays with him into the af­ter­noon, where he con­tin­ues to push as hard as he can. Go­ing straight on at a junc­tion in the fi­nal long stage costs him four pre­cious sec­onds in his pur­suit of the Fi­esta out front. ■ Pad­don cap­i­talises on Mikkelsen’s mishap, haul­ing his Hyundai closer to the sec­ond placed man on Satur­day night. They’re just 6.5s apart at the close of play. Like the man ahead, Pad­don had tweaked the set-up of his i20 and found he’d gone the right way for day two. ■ Neuville’s grip on fourth strength­ened, but his hopes of im­prov­ing were spoiled slightly when the man­ual gearshift con­nec­tor (used if the pad­dle fails) broke and flailed around in the footwell – dis­tract­ing him in SS13. ■ Lat­vala im­proved when he wres­tled fifth from Ogier (not a sen­tence one writes every day…) and then he ended it with fastest time in SS16. Ogier had pre­dicted more clean­ing than ever on day two and he wasn’t wrong – he ad­mit­ted it might well have been the worst day ever.

End of day two: 1 Tanak/ Molder 2h05m37.2s; 2 Mikkelsen/jaeger +21.3s; 3 Pad­don/ Ken­nard +27.8s; 4 Neuville/ Gil­soul +43.5s; 5 Lat­vala/anttila +1m04.5s; 6 Ogier/ In­gras­sia +1m08.1s.

Day three: 37.03 miles; 4 stages Weather: rain 20-34 cel­sius ■ Tanak’s hopes of a maiden win are shot with a penul­ti­mate stage punc­ture. He drops 35s and hands a 16-sec­ond ad­van­tage to Polo driver Mikkelsen with one test to run. ■ Rain is bring­ing chaos to the en­tire field – with one chi­cane in Sady caus­ing sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems. Dani Sordo whacks it first, but gets back to ser­vice then biffs a bank and re­tires. ■ Stephane Le­feb­vre and Eric Camilli both en­dure a SS19 to for­get. Le­feb­vre has dam­aged the rear of his DS3 while Camilli’s gone off the road af­ter the fly­ing fin­ish. In the end, with the main crews through, the or­gan­is­ers have de­cided to can­cel the sec­ond run through Bara­nowo. Con­tin­ued from page 27

If that sounds harsh on the Polo driver, it’s ab­so­lutely not meant to be. He drove a mag­nif­i­cent rally, more than wor­thy of a win. Like Tanak, Mikkelsen had come within an ace of win­ning Poland 12 months ago. But this time he de­liv­ered.

And that win had its foun­da­tions in Sar­dinia, when he took the brave de­ci­sion to drop time and pos­si­ble pow­er­stage points, to stay be­hind Dani Sordo in the cham­pi­onship – forc­ing the Spa­niard to run sec­ond on the road.

Mikkelsen made full use of that ex­tra set of Miche­lins, sweep­ing a line for his Volk­swa­gen – par­tic­u­larly on Satur­day, when he pushed the Polo as hard as he would dare, and it would go.

Every time he opened the door at the stage end he was elec­tric – the en­ergy com­ing out of the car was im­mense and a marked con­trast to Tanak five cars fur­ther back.

“I can­not go faster,” said Mikkelsen. “I’m giv­ing it ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing I’ve got.”

He’d strug­gled to get com­fort­able with a wildly un­der­steer­ing VW on Fri­day af­ter­noon. But his abil­ity to cope with that and then get im­me­di­ately back into the groove when he and his en­gi­neer Richard Browne found the sweet spot on Satur­day was ut­terly ad­mirable.

As for Sun­day, any­body who came through that rain and those ruts could claim to be a win­ner. The con­di­tions were as tough as they come in the world cham­pi­onship; Wales at its worst couldn’t im­part such sav­agery on a world-class field.

Watch­ing Tanak cross the line of the fi­nal stage was con­fir­ma­tion the dream had died. There was barely a mur­mur from within M-sport. This was the mo­ment the roof was sup­posed to be six inches higher than it had been all week.

In­stead, the cheer went to Volk­swa­gen and the se­ries’ sixth dif­fer­ent win­ner in as many ral­lies. Such things paled into in­signif­i­cance in the face of the emo­tion which would fol­low.

Tanak got out of his car and walked away. His col­leagues weren’t hav­ing that. They gath­ered around him to of­fer con­so­la­tion, then step for­ward Se­bastien Ogier to demon­strate the true depth of feel­ing for one of their own. The world cham­pion hoisted Tanak onto his own shoul­ders and car­ried him back to­wards the car.

It was one of those mo­ments when sport de­liv­ers on a hu­man level.

The champ’s act was even more im­pres­sive given the week­end he’d en­dured. Two days on the knifeedge of a half-de­cent stage time and bung­ing his mo­tor into boonies had taken its toll on him. He looked tired and was tired of talk­ing the same talk for an­other week. Sixth place was scant re­ward for such ef­fort.

Ahead of him Hay­den Pad­don and Thierry Neuville com­bined to land Hyundai a nice points haul with third and fourth, while VW was, quite frankly, let down by Jari-matti Lat­vala, who sim­ply couldn’t dial him­self into the speed needed – a wor­ry­ing state of af­fairs for a Finn, who was far from flat­tered by fifth.

Lat­vala’s woes were put on ice. The WRC had more to worry about as Tanak re­turned to Miko­la­jki for the fi­nal time. Twenty four hours ear­lier, the big­gest con­cern had been re-book­ing flights. Brivio’s flight was tight for any sort of cel­e­bra­tion.

“Don’t worry,” said Cor­mack early af­ter­noon on Satur­day, “you’re not go­ing any­where…”

Twenty-four hours on, the Ital­ian ar­chi­tect of DMACK’S finest hour threw his arms around Tanak. Then threw his bags in the boot and headed south. Cor­mack stood firm. “We’ll be back,” he said. ■

POS

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Breen landed points in Poland

Typ­i­cal Pol­ish view­ing tank... In­gras­sia: grass by name...

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