(20.05.2023) Two crews have built a healthy margin during morning loop of ORLEN 79th Rally Poland. Hayden Paddon and John Kennard (Hyundai i20 N Rally) lead Polish ERC counter after four special stages. However, Latvian duo Martins Sesks and Renars Francis are just 1,4 seconds adrift of the rally leaders. Third-placed crew –Josh McErlean/John Rowan (Hyundai i20 N Rally2) are already 22,1 seconds behind New Zealanders.

Saturday is the longest leg of Polish ERC counter with seven stages to go and 101,34 kilometres of competitive sections in total. Three stages run twice today: Swietajno (18,54 km), Markowskie (13,53 km) and Wieliczki (17,35 km). Second loop will be concluded with another visit at Mikolajki Arena superspecial (2,5 km).

Competitors enjoyed a stable, sunny weather during the first Saturday’s loop. The surface was mostly dry, but the gravel was less loose after the rainfall before the rally.

Mikolaj Marczyk and Szymon Gospodarczyk (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) took the early lead, after winning rally-opening superspecial Mikolajki Arena (2,5 km) on Friday evening. Unfortunately, two-time Polish champions dropped to 10th overall on SS 2 (Swietajno, 18,45 km). – I was too fast in one of the slow corners. I lost control, and we went into the ditch. It took us around 15 seconds to get out of there. I think we can do better than this – Marczyk explained.

It were Sesks and Francis who clocked the fastest time over the course of Swietajno test. Latvian duo was 3,2 seconds faster than Paddon and Kennard, but New Zealanders held the first position in the overall classification. Mikka Heikkila and Samu Vaaleri finished third (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo, +11,5 s).

Paddon answered on next stage, setting the fastest time. Marczyk came 2nd, just 0,9 seconds behind Hyundai driver. Sesks were super close too – only 1 second adrift of stage winner. This result moved Marczyk up to 5th overall. First pass of Markowskie test was unlucky for reigning Polish champions Tom Kristensson and Andreas Johansson. Swedish driver damaged front right suspension of his Citroen C3 Rally2 and was forced to stop.

Loop-ending Wieliczki stage (17,35 km) was won by Paddon and Kennard, with Sesks and Francis just a blink of an eye behind (+0,2 s). Marczyk and Gospodarczyk finished third (+6,4 s).

After four special stages of ORLEN 79th Rally Poland it is Hayden Paddon on the top of the leaderboard. Martins Sesks holds second overall (+1,4 s) with Josh McErlean third (+22,1 s).

Moreover, Sesks lead Polish championship classification, followed by Marczyk and Grzegorz Grzyb, co-driven by Adam Binieda (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo).

Jon Armstrong and Cameron Fair (Ford Fiesta Rally3) managed to build a healthy margin in ERC3 category. British crew have more than a minute advantage over second-placed rivals.

ORLEN 79th Rally Poland – standings after SS4:

1. Paddon Kennard (NZL/NZL, Hyundai i20 N Rally2)   26:51,9 s

2. Sesks/Renars (LVA/LVA, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2)   +1,4 s

3. McErlean/Rowan (IRL/IRL, Hyundai i20 N Rally2)   +22,1 s

4. Tempestini/Itu (ROU/ROU, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo)   +24,1 s

5. Marczyk/Gospodarczyk (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2)   +24,8 s

6. Heikkila/Vaaleri (FIN/FIN, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo)   +28,7 s

7. Franceschi/Escartefigue (FRA/FRA, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo)   +31,5 s

8. Ostberg/Barth (NOR/SWE, Citroen C3 Rally2)   +31,6 s

9. Mabellini/Menzi (ITA/ITA, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo)   +33,7 s

10. Llarena/Fernandez (ESP/ESP, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2)   +39,1 s