Ott Tanak heads Rally Poland

Ott Tanak on the fly in Poland

Ott Tanak on the fly in Poland

Ott Tanak has taken full advantage of his road position to lead the way at Rally Poland.

Tanak, in the DMack-shod Ford Fiesta outpaced Andreas Mikkelsen and Hayden Paddon over the fast sandy roads in northern Poland.

Twelve months since the Estonian last led a WRC round, he holds a 4.2sec lead over the VW after 10 timed stages covering 121.92km. Paddon was a further 6.0sec behind in a Hyundai i20.

After Thierry Neuville led the rally after the opening super stage, Tanak took the lead before Mikkelsen then moved ahead for five stages.

Then a treble for Tanak in the afternoon saw him finish the day with five stage victories and the rally lead.

“It’s been a great day, especially this afternoon when I found a great rhythm,” said Tanak.

“The stages have been so fast, and some were quite rough, but the ‘button’ was in. If you want to win there is no other way.”

Mikkelsen was never able to push his advantage above 3.6sec when the soft roads became heavily rutted in the afternoon over the second pass.

He was unhappy with his car’s handling and admitted he could do no more to fend off Tanak.

Paddon sits in a strong third place

Paddon sits in a strong third place

Paddon won three stages although the Kiwi was never comfortable with his car.

He changed the set-up in the afternoon to try to improve the balance, but the ride-height was too low for the deep ruts.

“It’s been pretty close at the front throughout the day. Even this afternoon, when things didn’t run quite as we’d hoped, we’ve been able to stay in touch and add another stage win,” said Paddon.

“There’s still some room for improvement. We know where we need to focus so we’ll sort out a plan of action for Saturday.

“It’s a fast, fun rally and I’m feeling confident.”

Championship leader Sebastien Ogier is fourth, 16.3sec off the lead in his Polo R.

The Frenchman had hoped the forecast thunderstorms would arrive to offset the disadvantage of opening the roads in loose conditions, but the day stayed dry with temperatures rising to 27˚C.

Thierry Neuville is fifth, despite dropping two wheels into a field, with a dispirited Jari-Matti Latvala completing the top six.

The Finn never found a rhythm, ending 2.8sec ahead of Stephane Lefebvre with DS 3 team-mate Craig Breen a further 1.7sec behind after the trio traded places all day.

Eric Camilli and Mads Ostberg completed the leaderboard in Fiesta RS cars. Ostberg was disappointed with his pace after a strong showing earlier this month in Italy and lost a handful of seconds after going off the road.

Scott Pedder

Scott Pedder

Henning Solberg suffered intercom problems all day while Dani Sordo’s run of four consecutive fourth place finishes is in jeopardy after ending 11th.

Australia’s Scott Pedder sits 24th overall and equal 10th in the WRC2 standings after the Australian struggled with an ill handling Skoda Fabia R5 on roads that demand high-speed precision.

“The feeling in the car has been progressively worse all day, especially under braking and turning,” said Pedder.

“We think it’s diff related, however we won’t know until we get into the first stage tomorrow morning to know if it is any better or not.”

As the day progressed Pedder’s handling issues continued to worsen, resulting in three times spinning the Skoda and stalling the engine, before two overshoots in the afternoon’s stages, the final having a more dramatic knock on effect.

Despite the disappointment of being hampered on lightning fast roads, he’s taking a positive outlook on the day as the team worked on the car ready for Leg Two.

“On pace we should be about sixth, at the moment we’re equal tenth in WRC2, but only about 20 seconds off sixth. The pace at the front, which may lead to some mistakes, plus a better handling car, I’m confident we can still net a good result. It might sound crazy but a podium is still a possibility too,” Pedder concluded.

Saturday is the longest of the rally with 124.58km of competition.

Drivers face two loops of stages near the border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, before a third and final run through the Mikolajki super special stage.

VIDEO: Morning Stages

VIDEO: Afternoon Stages

POSITIONS : Leg 1 – Rally Poland

Pos Driver Team Car Time/Gap
1 Ott Tanak DMACK World Rally Team Ford 1:01:23.0
2 Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Volkswagen +0:04.2
3 Hayden Paddon Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai +0:10.2
4 Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen +0:16.3
5 Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai +0:20.4
6 Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen +0:36.6
7 Stephane Lefebvre Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen +0:39.4
8 Craig Breen Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen +0:41.1
9 Eric Camilli M-Sport World Rally Team Ford +0:58.6
10 Mads Ostberg M-Sport World Rally Team Ford +1:06.7

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