“Feel the Gravel” is the slogan of the 74th Rally Poland 2017. But on the opening Friday leg of the eighth round of World Rally Championship it was more about: “Feel the Mud.” Heavy rain falls in the area of the Masurian Lake District in the north of Poland turned the fast and sandy stages into a mix of mud and water. The grip level changed all the time.
Right from the start the WRC2 competition was a tough fight between the ŠKODA works team Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson, the private Printsport youngster team Ole Christian Veiby / Stig Rune Skjaermœn and the Ford pairing Gus Greensmith / Craig Parry.
On the first special stage on Thursday evening, the rather short show stage close to the service park in Mikolajki, Tidemand scored the first fastest time. On Friday morning heavy rainfalls turned the special stages into a mud bath. On stage 2 Norwegian youngster O.C. Veiby was fastest ahead of stablemate Pontus Tidemand and moved into the lead. On the next stage Gus Greensmith took the second position. But two stages later Pontus Tidemand fought back into second place again, trailing leader Veiby by just around seven seconds.
After the regrouping in Mikolajki the teams were heading for the repetition of the four stages of the morning plus another run of the show stage. For the second run the road conditions promised to be even tougher. With the deep ruts of the gravel roads are now filled with water, on some places there was even aquaplaning waiting for the drivers. Stage 6 was cancelled due to spectator safety reasons, only four were left. While O.C. Veiby could maintain his lead, Pontus Tidemand was reducing the gap up to 5.1 seconds behind his young stablemate. Ford driver Greensmith had to retire on special stage 8 after he went off the road and damaged the suspension of his car.
Saturday will feature the longest leg of the rally covering around 150 Kilometres on sandy, fast and narrow roads. The weather forecast promises a partially sunny day.
|2017 Rally Poland – WRC2 standings after Leg 1:|
|1.||Veiby / Skjærmoen (NOR/NOR)||ŠKODA FABIA R5||1:00:41.7 hrs|
|2.||Tidemand / Andersson (SWE/SWE)||ŠKODA FABIA R5||+5.1 sec|
|3.||Gilbert / Jamoul (FRA/BEL)||ŠKODA FABIA R5||+2:09.5 min|
|4.||Guerra jr. / Cué (MEX/ESP)||ŠKODA FABIA R5||+3:04.1 min|
Number of the day: 5.1
After 109.64 kilometres and nine stages (one stage was cancelled) under challenging conditions, the ŠKODA drivers Ole Christian Veiby and Pontus Tidemand are separated by just 5.1 seconds.