(20.05.2023) Martins Sesks and Renars Francis (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) lead ORLEN 79th Rally Poland after first leg of Polish ERC counter. Hayden Paddon and John Kennard (Hyundai i20 N Rally2) are 8,2 seconds adrift of Latvians, while Mikolaj Marczyk and Szymon Gospodarczyk (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) hold third overall, being the fastest Polish crew.

As many as 80 crews competed today on fast Masurian gravel stages. Seven stages were scheduled, including two passes of Swietajno (18,45 km), Markowskie (13,53 km) and Wieliczki (17,35 km) tests and one run of Mikolajki Arena superspecial (2,5 km).

Martins Sesks was the fastest over the course of the first morning stage (Swietajno). Meanwhile Hayden Paddon won next two stages and headed to service park as rally leader. Miko Marczyk, who was in first place after winning the opening stage on Friday evening, dropped to 10th overall after SS 2. – 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. However, ORLEN Team driver soon was back in the game and climbed up to 5th overall.

Second pass of Swietajno test, the longest stage of the event, proved to be crucial. Having pushed hard over the course of 18,45 kilometres, Sesks was 7,6 seconds faster than Paddon. In consequence Latvian driver took the lead. Marczyk finished third, what promoted him to third overall.

Sesks continued to push on two following stages, increasing his lead by 1,7 and 1,6 seconds respectively. Saturday’s leg was concluded with Mikolajki Arena superspecial (2,5), where Paddon clocked fastest time, equalled by Simone Tempestini and Sergio Itu (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo). Czech duo Filip Mares/Radovan Bucha (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo) finished third (+0,3 s).

Sesks and Francis lead the overall classification of the event before Sunday’s, final leg. Paddon and Kennard, keen to score many championship points, hold 2nd place, 8,2 seconds adrift of Latvians. Third-placed Marczyk and Gospodarczyk are already 41,4 seconds behind rally leaders.

Irish duo Josh McErlean/John Rowan (Hyundai i20 N Rally2) kept fourth place, but they have just 1,4 seconds in hand over fifth-placed Mads Ostberg and Patrik Barth (Citroen C3 Rally2)

Latvians fastest in Polish championship

In ERC3 category only two out of four crews made it to the finish of leg one. It is Jon Armstrong (Ford Fiesta Rally3) who hold the first place. However, his advantage has shrunk to 30 seconds after he and his co-driver Cameron Fair were forced to stop due to puncture.

Ola Nore Junior and Rune Eilerstsen (Renault Clio Rally4) from Norway were fastest among ERC4 entrants and ERC Junior competitors.

Sesks and Francis lead the classification of Polish rally championship round. Latvians are followed by Marczyk/Gospodarczyk and Grzyb/Binięda (Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo).

Nearly 20 crews failed to finish leg one of ORLEN 79th Rally Poland, including Polish champions Tom Kristensson and Andreas Johansson, who were forced to retire after damaging front right suspension in their Citroen C3 Rally2 on SS3.

Sunday in Polish ERC counter is packed with new challenges, with crews heading west of Mikolajki. The organisers prepared four stages, all run twice. The day will begin with two brand new stages: Barczewo (10,73 km) and Biskupiec (12,3 km). On their way back to Mikolajki competitors will cover SS Gmina Mragowo (9,4 km) and Mikolajki (6,68 km), which is a completely changed Mikolajki Max stage, known from previous editions of the event. Additional points will be awarded to five fastest crews on second pass of Gmina Mragowo test, held as Power Stage.

ORLEN 79th Rally Poland – overall classification after SS 8:

1. Sesks/Renars (LVA/LVA, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2)   53:38,1 s

2. Paddon Kennard (NZL/NZL, Hyundai i20 N Rally2)   +8,2 s

3. Marczyk/Gospodarczyk (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2)   +41,4 s

4. McErlean/Rowan (IRL/IRL, Hyundai i20 N Rally2)   +50,1 s

5. Ostberg/Barth (NOR/SWE, Citroen C3 Rally2)   +51,6 s

6. Franceschi/Escartefigue (FRA/FRA, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo)   +53,5 s

7. Mabellini/Menzi (ITA/ITA, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo)   +56,8 s

8. Heikkila/Vaaleri (FIN/FIN, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo)   +57,2 s

9. Tempestini/Itu (ROU/ROU, Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo)   +58,8 s

10. Cais/Bacigal (CZE/SVK, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2)   +1:10,0 s