This weekend’s Rally Poland was the seventh round of the World Rally Championship and what an intense and dramatic rally it proved to be after bad weather caused chaos in the penultimate stage and forced the retirement of several drivers.
It was the Team Oreca’s ŠKODA Fabia R5 of Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula who emerged victorious to complete back-to-back WRC2 victories and their third of the season. It was also the fifth successive WRC2 victory for a ŠKODA Fabia R5.
Fast and consistent driving on the first two days meant Suninen held second position behind the ŠKODA works driver Esapekka Lappi. But Sunday offered fresh challenges as the rain fell heavily and as a result, Suninen slipped back to third. The penultimate stage proved to be the clincher though as both leading drivers, Lappi and Evans, suffered punctures to allow Suninen to close out the win by a margin of 49 seconds.
The victory leaves Suninen in second place in the WRC2 championship standings, and just five points off the lead.
There was another ŠKODA Fabia R5 on the podium too as the ŠKODA Motorsport pairing of Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm recovered from the disappointment of losing the lead because of a puncture on the penultimate stage to claim third spot.
Their Swedish teammates Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson, who had led for a time on the first day before suffering a broken suspension, finished in seventh place, one place ahead of Peruvian Nicolás Fuchs and his Argentinian co-driver Fernando Mussano, who regretted the time they lost on the nineteenth stage, again as a result of the bad weather.
The other ŠKODA Fabia R5 to make it to the finish line was that of Julien Maurin / Olivier Ural, who were also troubled by conditions, but managed to get home in fifteenth place.
The bad weather on the final day forced a number of teams out of the event, sadly including some of the ŠKODA Fabia R5 cars.
The Australian duo of Scott Pedder / Dale Moscatt had impressed on their return to the WRC finishing fourth in the WRC2 standings at the Rally de Portugal. After a difficult first day in Poland, they were on a charge on day 2 and climbed as high as fifth in the WRC2 standings, before two incidents on the final day saw them drop back. Then the chaotic penultimate stage which saw the rain causing a rutted and almost undriveable road, and Pedder, who had already rolled the car once in the rain, was forced out with a broken suspension.
The same stage also saw The Ptock team’s Polish pairing of Hubert Ptaszek / Maciej Szczepaniak forced to retire from their home rally, while Armin Kremer / Pirmin Winklhofer, driving for the BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing team, were forced out earlier, on the opening stage of the day.
The next round will do well to match the sheer drama witnessed here at the Rally Poland, but no doubt drivers will be hoping for a slightly less stressful outing. We shall soon find out as round 8 of the WRC, the Rally Finland takes place from 28th to 31st July.