Neuville and Tanak in Poland toe-to-toe fight
Thierry Neuville has a narrow lead after a back-and-forwards fight with Ott Tanak during the second full day of competition at Rally Poland.
The lead changed hands four times on a leg that also saw have some issues before Neuville ended the day with a 3.1sec advantage.
After Friday’s torrential rain and driving winds, Saturday featured clearer skies and drying roads, meaning a great fight at the front.
Neuville’s slender overnight lead was short-lived at the start of the day as Tanak grabbed top spot in the second speed test. This was despite his Ford Fiesta plunging into a field and filling the front air intakes with earth.
Neuville put his Hyundai back in front two stages later before a dramatic 21.24km Pozezdrze test brought another twist.
Tanak emerged in front, but the aerodynamic rear wing fell off his Fiesta and he faced three more stages with reduced downforce. His lead was almost 15sec as Neuville conceded 20sec driving most of the test with a rear left puncture!
Tanak could not fend off the Belgian who regained the initiative in the penultimate stage to set up an exciting final day, with heavy rain forecast to return.
“It has been a pretty intense day, one way or another,” said Neuville.
“We were determined not to give up, so we pushed hard when we could.
“We don’t have a huge time advantage so we won’t be able to take it easy on Sunday. The win is still very much open and I am sure Ott will be hunting us down.”
Despite all his issues Tanak was pleased to be very much in the hunt.
“It’s been an interesting day with a lot of things happening so it’s good to still be in a close battle at the top,” said Tanak.
“We’re still in the fight and it looks as though we’re in for a really exciting day tomorrow – with the weather making it interesting as well.”
Jari-Matti Latvala couldn’t hang on to the leading duo and settled into third until he also fell foul of Pozezdrze. His Toyota Yaris coasted to a halt after a compression with no drive.
His demise promoted Hayden Paddon into third. The Kiwi won three stages in his i20 to distance championship leader Sebastien Ogier by more than a minute.
“We have had far better conditions today, especially this morning,” said Paddon.
“We could really set about getting down to business and just enjoying the driving.
“Moved up into third overall after Jari-Matti’s problem. I am sorry for him, but at the same time I am happy to have the chance for a podium here, which would be an unexpected, but very welcome result.”
Two punctures for Ogier cost time and while running on the second flat, he spun his Fiesta into a kerb. Engine issues in the afternoon slowed the Frenchman further but he retained a 11.8sec advantage over fifth-placed Dani Sordo.
Sordo ended 22.4sec clear of Teemu Suninen, who continued to impress on his top-flight debut. A brief stall was his only issue.
Stephane Lefebvre, Mads Ostberg, Elfyn Evans and Andreas Mikkelsen filled the leaderboard as Juho Hanninen fell away with engine problems. Mikkelsen twice missed junctions in his Citroen C3 and slid into a field.
Sunday’s finale comprises two loops of two tests near Mikolajki covering 59.66km. The final 18.68km live TV Power Stage offers bonus points to the fastest five drivers.
VIDEO: Morning Stages
VIDEO: Afternoon Stages
Positions: Rally Poland – Leg 2
|1||T. Neuville||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||2:10:26.3|
|2||O. Tanak||Ford Fiesta WRC||+0:03.1|
|3||H. Paddon||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+0:25.5|
|4||S. Ogier||Ford Fiesta WRC||+1:32.0|
|5||D. Sordo||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+1:43.8|
|6||T. Suninen||Ford Fiesta WRC||+2:06.2|
|7||S. Lefebvre||Citroën C3 WRC||+2:20.3|
|8||M. Ostberg||Ford Fiesta WRC||+2:45.8|
|9||E. Evans||Ford Fiesta WRC||+3:23.1|
|10||A. Mikkelsen||Citroen C3 WRC||+3:34.6|