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Stage report
WRC Rally Poland

WRC Poland: Tanak tops head-to-head super special to lead

Rally Poland begins with Hyundai sitting 1-2 after stage one

Hyundai’s Ott Tanak moved into an early lead at Rally Poland after edging his team-mate and World Rally Championship points leader Thierry Neuville on Thursday night’s opening stage.

Poland’s return to the WRC for the first time since 2017 began with a run through the side-by-side Mikolajki Arena spectator stage in front of a packed crowd.

Tanak faced M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux in his head-to-head where he beat the Frenchman by 1.9s. The time was good enough to win the stage by a margin of 1s over Neuville, who defeated title rival Toyota’s Elfyn Evans in their duel by 0.3s.

“I enjoy these roads, but they are not easy at all, everything needs to be spot on,” said Tanak, at the stage end as he looked ahead to Friday’s running. “You need to have full confidence in everything around you so we will find out tomorrow what we are feeling.”

Evans clocked the third fastest time, 0.3s quicker than his Toyota team-mate Takamoto Katsuta.

Andreas Mikkelsen, making his third start of the season in the third Hyundai i20 N, ended the stage fifth [+1.8s] after winning his heat against reigning world champion Kalle Rovanpera.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Fourmaux slotted into sixth [+1.9s] ahead of Rovanpera [+2.1s], following his last-minute call up to replace Toyota team-mate Sebastien Ogier who was forced to withdraw from the event following a road traffic crash while completing the event recce on Tuesday.

Rovanpera, who only completed his event recce earlier today, believes it isn’t possible to fight for victory after his rushed and limited event preparation.

“I don’t think we can win at least not in reasonable or safe way,” said Rovanpera. “It is super annoying as you come here just to have a good finish, but when you drive it is shit if you don’t try to win.

“I don’t try to win this time, there is no point, we are too late with everything and tonight will be super long [preparing for tomorrow’s stages], so it is not going to be easy.”

M-Sport’s Gregoire Munster cut an angry figure at stage end after his Ford Puma picked up damage to its windscreen from gravel flicked up during his heat against Katsuta.

“When they [organisers] said they would put water down [on the gravel] they should do it properly as it is way too dry,” he said. “My windscreen is not completely damaged but if we get any impact tomorrow it is going to be worse. It is stupid.”

Grégoire Munster, Louis Louka, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Grégoire Munster, Louis Louka, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

Martins Sesks beat WRC2 runner Oliver Solberg to round out the Rally1 runners on his class debut driving a non-hybrid powered version of the M-Sport Ford Puma.

Solberg topped the WRC2 class despite losing his head-to head in which his Skoda’s windscreen also suffered damage from airborne gravel. Solberg was 1.6s faster than nearest WRC2 rival and Citroen driver Nikolay Gryazin, while Skoda’s Gus Greensmith was third, 0.1s behind Gryazin.

Six gravel stages split by a tyre fitting zone await the crews on Friday.

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