The ŠKODA drivers delivered a thrilling battle for first place, delighting thousands of fans at the start of the Rally Poland. After ten of 21 special stages, the lead is held by Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (title photo above), who are just 4.6 seconds ahead of the ŠKODA works duo Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm as the duel of the “Flying Finns” continues into the final days of the rally. In one of the fastest rallies of the year in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC2), Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson held the lead for a long time, but the second ŠKODA works team was stopped in its tracks in the penultimate special stage.
On Friday morning, Tidemand had recorded a fastest time to take the lead in the overall standings. The 25-year-old Swede had to be on top form in each of the fast gravel stages in the picturesque landscape of the Masurian Lakes, as other ŠKODA drivers Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi were also flying along at top speed. Tenths of a second were crucial in determining the winners of the nine special stages on Friday, and on one occasion Suninen and Tidemand produced a dead heat.
The Swedish driver came to an abrupt halt on the ninth special stage “Stare Juchy 2“, due to a problem with the ball joint on his front right wheel.
Dramatic scenes are guaranteed: with 121.92 kilometres already completed, Suninen and Lappi are only separated by a few seconds as they approach a further 184.18 stage kilometres on Saturday and Sunday.
One year ago, it was the fast Finn who had claimed the historic first win in the new ŠKODA Fabia R5 rally car. This year, the top twelve of the current WRC2 rankings contain seven ŠKODA Fabia R5s. All nine best times on Friday were recorded by the high-tech four-wheel drive – further proof of the success of the project.
Rally Poland 2016 – WRC2 standings after the first leg:
- Suninen/Markkula (FIN/FIN); ŠKODA Fabia R5; 1:03:20,4 hod.
- Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN); ŠKODA Fabia R5; + 0:04,6 min.
- Evans/Parry (GB/GB); Ford Fiesta R5; + 0:21,9 min.
- Kruuda/Järveoja (EST/EST); Ford Fiesta R5; + 0:29,2 min.
- Fuchs/Mussano (PE/RA); ŠKODA Fabia R5; + 1:06,2 min.