(19.05.2023) Very small gaps between top six crews of qualifying stage promise exciting battle in ORLEN 79th Rally Poland, round three of FIA ERC. Sixth-placed Kristensson was just a second slower than Marczyk, who set the pace over the course of Baranowo test (3,46 km).

According to updated rules, 27 crews in Rally2/R5 cars tackled the qualifying stage.

Just like year ago, both shakedown and qualifying stage was held on 3,46-kilometre-long part of Baranowo test. However, the conditions today were more stable, and grip was far better than in 2022 edition. There gravel was less loose, with no muddy traps in shadowed places.

Thanks to grippier road Marczyk and Gospodarczyk (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) were more than 6 seconds faster, comparing to their 2022 outing in qualifying. ORLEN Team crew needed 1:55,116 s to cover the distance of 3460 m. Interestingly, they clocked even better time during second run of free practice, when they flew through the finish line after 1:54,356 s.

Finnish champions Mikko Heikkila and Vaaleri Samu (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) came super close to Poles, being just a 0,097 s slower. FIA ERC standings leaders – Hayden Paddon and John Kennard clocked third fastest time in their Hyundai i20 N Rally 2 (+

0,289 s).

Martins Sesks and Renars Francis in newest Skoda Motorsport machinery finished fourth (+0,301 s). Latvian duo was followed by two crews in Citroen C3 Rally2 cars – Mads Ostberg/Patrik Barth (+0,516 s) and reigning Polish champions Tom Kristensson and Andreas Johansson (+1,002 s).

The fastest drivers of qualifying stage will be the first to choose starting position to leg one, crucial in gravel events like Polish ERC counter.

Grzegorz Grzyb and Adam Binięda (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) finished 17th, being second-fastest crew from Poland (+5,092 s). Rafal Kwiatkowski and Kamil Kozdron did not make it to the finish of qualifying stage, after they crashed heavily. Both driver and co-driver were uninjured, but they were forced to withdraw from the event.

Next part of Friday’s schedule in ORLEN 79th Rally Poland is the starting order selection at the Main Square in Mikolajki, followed by ceremonial start. Opening superspecial stage Mikolajki Arena (2,5 km) begins on 6:30 PM local time.

ORLEN 79th Rally Poland – qualifying stage results

1. Mikołaj Marczyk/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) 1:55,116 s

2. Mikko Heikkila/Valeri Samu (FIN/FIN, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +0,097 s

3. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZL/NZL, Hyundai i20 N Rally2) +0,289 s

4. Martins Sesks/Renars Francis (LVA/LVA, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +0,301 s

5. Mads Ostberg/Patrik Barth (NOR/SWE, Citroen C3 Rally2) +0,516 s

6. Tom Kristensson/Andreas Johansson (SWE/SWE, Citroen C3 Rally2) +1,002 s

7. Joshua McErlean/John Rowan (IRL/IRL, Hyundai i20 N Rally2) +1,102 s

8. Andrea Mabellini/Virginia Lenzi (ITA/ITA, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +1,581 s

9. Mathieu Franceschi/Jules Escartefigue (FRA/FRA, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +1,674 s

10. Simone Tempestini/Sergio Itu (ROU/ROU, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) +2,246 s