Intense heat and dust followed by rain and mud, with plenty of drama throughout: the Fabia R5 of Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula overcame all these challenges to reap ŠKODA its fifth consecutive win in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC2). The two Finns benefited from a puncture suffered by ŠKODA works duo Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm, who were engaged in a three-way battle for victory and were in the lead until the penultimate stage. Last year’s winners ultimately finished in third place in the high-octane show over a distance of 306.10 kilometres. The second ŠKODA Motorsport duo Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson made good a number of positions to finish in seventh place.
The rally proceedings on gravel tracks in the picturesque Masurian Lake District were hard to beat in terms of excitement. On Friday, the ŠKODA works duo Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson initially took the lead, but were temporarily stopped in their tracks by a problem. A three-way battle for the rally win then developed among the two ŠKODA Fabia R5 drivers Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans. Suninen was out in front on Friday evening, but Lappi mastered Saturday’s intense temperatures and dusty tracks to go into the lead.
The weather conditions had then changed completely on the final day as he tackled the final four special stages with a lead of 10.8 seconds over Suninen. After heavy rainfall, the roads were muddy and the temperature had dropped by almost 15 degrees. Lappi initially defended his lead over Evans and Suninen during the first two stages of the final day. However, like Evans, Lappi then experienced a puncture during the penultimate stage, Baranowo 2, and subsequently lost almost two minutes – clearing the way for Suninen to score his third win of the season.
Suninen achieved the fifth consecutive WRC2 win for a ŠKODA Fabia R5. The talented 22-year-old rally driver initiated the string of successes in Rally Mexico. This was followed by Nicolás Fuchs of Peru being unbeatable during Rally Argentina. Works driver Pontus Tidemand won Rally Portugal, before Suninen clinched his second win in Rally Italy.
After seven out of 14 season events, the overall WRC2 rankings are about as exciting as Rally Poland proved to be. With half of the season completed, Elfyn Evans is in the lead (80 points/five appearances), but there are several ŠKODA Fabia R5 drivers hot on his heels who are still in with a strong chance of clinching the title. Teemu Suninen is in second place (75 points/four appearances), ahead of Nicolás Fuchs (59 points/five appearances). ŠKODA works driver Pontus Tidemand then follows in fourth place (49 points/three appearances). Esapekka Lappi has made three appearances and has picked up 32 points in total. In 2016, each of the drivers can pick up points towards winning the WRC2 title in seven events, with their top six results then counting.
The two ŠKODA works drivers Lappi and Tidemand will have the opportunity to score some more points at the next WRC event in Finland from 28 to 31 July. And Esapekka Lappi hopes to then repeat his 2015 performance by winning his home rally.
Rally Poland 2016 – WRC2 final results:
- Suninen/Markkula (FIN/FIN);ŠKODA Fabia R5: 2:43:27.7 hrs
- Evans/Parry (GB/GB);Ford Fiesta R5: + 49.6 sec
- Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN);ŠKODA Fabia R5: + 2:32.7 min
- Kajetanowicz/Baran (PL/PL);Ford Fiesta R5: + 6:32.8 min
- Koltun/Pleskot (PL/PL);Ford Fiesta R5: + 10:36.4 min