Norwegian claims dramatic victory in Rally Poland.
Andreas Mikkelsen snatched a dramatic last-gasp victory at PZM 73rd Rally Poland on Sunday afternoon when long-time leader Ott Tänak was cruelly deprived of a maiden FIA World Rally Championship win.
Tänak’s Ford Fiesta RS suffered a puncture in the penultimate rain-soaked speed test, wiping out his near-20sec lead and allowing Mikkelsen to claim a second career success. He became the sixth different winner in the last six rounds of a hugely unpredictable season.
“We pushed so hard all weekend and with the weather as it was today we knew it was going to be difficult and we gave it everything. It was like a war in the penultimate stage and it was all about luck, who got out without problems, and we were the lucky ones.
Mikkelsen commiserated with the Estonian, having been on the receiving end of a similar situation when he spun out of the lead in Sweden in 2015 in the final test.
“I told Ott before the final stage that I felt so sorry for him. It would have been an adventure story but that’s the way rallying is. It’s very unpredictable,” said Mikkelsen, who climbed to second in the points.
Tänak had excelled on the sandy but lightning fast roads since Friday afternoon and was inconsolable at the finish. “There’s nothing I can say. All this and then you get nothing, it’s too hard,” he said.
Hayden Paddon completed the podium in a Hyundai i20, 2.3sec behind Tänak, to end a run of accidents in the previous two rounds. However, the New Zealander almost relaxed too much in the final stage, allowing team-mate Thierry Neuville to close to within 0.8sec.
Jari-Matti Latvala finished fifth, a further 4.5sec back in a Volkswagen Polo R. Team-mate Sébastien Ogier was sixth, the championship leader admitting conditions were so bad that simply surviving the final day was his sole aim.
Craig Breen was seventh in a DS 3, moving up after team-mate Stéphane Lefebvre smashed his car’s rear left suspension after spinning into a tree. The Frenchman eventually finished ninth.
Mads Østberg overhauled both Lefebvre and team-mate Eric Camilli, who limped through the final stage with damaged suspension on his Fiesta RS after going off the road in the previous test. Camilli took 10th.
Dani Sordo retired after firstly slamming his i20 in chicane bales and then damaging his rear suspension against a tree.
Poland marked the midpoint of the 14-round campaign and the second half begins with Neste Rally Finland which is based in Jyväskylä on 28 – 31 July.
Teemu Suninen claimed a dramatic back-to-back WRC 2 victory at PZM 73rd Rally Poland on Sunday to pile the pressure on championship leader Elfyn Evans.
The Finn, winner of the previous round in Italy, was on course to take second behind fellow countryman Esapekka Lappi. But in treacherous conditions Lappi punctured a tyre in the penultimate stage and his near-20sec advantage was wiped out.
Suninen eased his Skoda Fabia R5 through the final test to clinch a third victory of the year by 49.6sec and slash Evans’ advantage to five points.
“Now is the time to smile,” said Suninen. “We have pushed on the limit all weekend and now we are the winners. It was good to fight with Evans and Lappi, who have factory cars and more experience.”
Suninen was an unlikely winner after slipping to third following this morning’s opening stage. Evans topped the times in his Ford Fiesta R5 to climb ahead but slipped back again in the following stage. A rear right puncture in the penultimate test ended the Welshman’s hopes.
Evans finished 1min 43.1sec clear of Lappi’s Fabia R5 while the heavily rutted penultimate stage created havoc for many more competitors.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Karl Kruuda punctured, Scott Pedder retired with broken suspension after rolling earlier in the morning, Jaroslaw Koltun damaged his suspension and Sander Parn and Hubert Ptaszek both stopped before the test was halted.
Following the carnage, European champion Kajetanowicz finished fourth in a Fiesta RS with Koltun and Loubet completing the top six. Early leader Pontus Tidemand recovered to seventh after broken suspension sidelined him on Friday.