(27.06.2024) Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) started the ORLEN 80th Rally Poland in impressive style. The Estonians beat the Mikolajki Arena track record by nearly 1.5 seconds and took the lead in the overall standings of the Polish WRC counter.

The spectacular, head-to-head battles on the track near the Golebiewski Hotel attracted thousands of fans who watched the 2.5 km-long Mikolajki Arena super special stage. It was the first time when 530-horsepower hybrid rally cars were in action on concrete and gravel track, so sensational times could be expected. The record set in 2015 by Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia was broken by Tanak and Jarveoja, who clocked 1:42.5, exactly 1.4 seconds better than the eight-time world champions’ result. The Estonians also beat Adrien Formaux and Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) by nearly two seconds in a direct clash.

There was a passionate battle between world championship leaders – Thierry Neuville/Martjin Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) and title contenders – Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid). Both crews clocked a better time than the record set nine years ago, with the Belgians just 0.3 s faster than their British rivals at the finish.

Among the crews in Rally2 category cars, the best time was set by Oliver Solberg and Elliott Edmondson (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) – 1:48.2, while the fastest Polish crew was Miko Marczyk and Szymon Gospodarczyk (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2), who beat Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Maciej Szczepaniak (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) by 0.3 seconds in their simultaneous run.

Jakub Matulka and Daniel Dymurski (Ford Fiesta Rally3) showed an impressive performance at the Mikolajki Arena, becoming the first leaders of the RC3 class standings. What’s more, their result (1:52.3 s) was better than times set by 12 crews in more powerful rally2 cars.

115 competitive kilometres without a service break

Friday promises to be a unique challenge for drivers as they have to cover as many as seven stages without visiting the service park. Only a 15-minute-long tyre fitting zone in Olecko has been scheduled between the loops. Even though the names of special stages such as Stańczyki, Wieliczki, Olecko or Gołdap are well known to rally crews, but in most cases their route has been modified even by several dozen percent.

The roads are amazing and it’s going to be a lot of fun – said Oliver Solberg (NOR, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2). – Some stages are interesting, and some are very fast and less technical. From my memories, I expected it to be more twisty, but most stages are different from those I covered during previous editions

commented Thierry Neuville (BEL, Hyundai i20 N Rally Hybrid), championship leader and 2017 Rally Poland winner.

Elfyn Evans (GBR, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) also noticed that it is going to be a spectacular, high-speed gravel battle.

This is the first such fast event on the calendar. It’s always a challenge to get used to this pace after a few slow rallies, but it’s the event I enjoy. My goal is always the same, to try to win, to do the best of what’s possible

said two-time World Rally Championship runner-up.

After a seven-year break, for some of the crews, ORLEN 80th Rally Poland is “terra incognita”. It is a maiden outing in Poland for Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen (FIN/FIN, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid). Two-time World Rally Champions got the last-minute call-up to replace Sebastien Ogier and Vincent Landais who were forced to withdraw from the rally following a minor crash during the recce. Adrien Formaux (FRA, Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) is another driver to make his debut on Masurian gravel stages.

I like these stages and I like the atmosphere of being in the middle of nowhere with all the spectators and going flat-out in the stages. It demands so much commitment from us

said the Frenchman.

Friday’s leg (28th of June) is about to begin with a stronger-than-espresso, but more than spectacular, 30-kilometre-long Stanczyki stage (29,4 km). The test start is located nearby two, famous large viaducts (now defunct) of the Goldap-Zytkiejmy railway, which were built back in 1917. The different versions of the Stanczyki stage were a part of the event’s itinerary in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Its route runs through moraine hills and comprises seven spectator zones, including one next to a thrilling jump.

Next in store are no less famous Wieliczki (12,9 km) and Olecko (13,2 km) but deeply changed stages. The latter one includes loved by spectators Rosochackie jump. However, this time it is run in the opposite direction. The mentioned stages will run again during the afternoon loop. The day is about to conclude with Mikolajki Arena’s super special and “meet the crews” session in the service park with three top-placed duos. The total length of special stages scheduled for Friday is 113,5 km.

ORLEN 80th Rally Poland – standings after SS1 (Mikolajki Arena, 2,5 km):

1. Tanak/Jarveoja (EST/EST, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) 1:42,5
2. Neuville/Wydaeghe (BEL/BEL, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) +1 s
3. Evans/Martin (GBR/GBR, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) +1,3 s
4. Katsuta/Johnston (JPN/IRL, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) +1,6 s
5. Mikkelsen/Eriksen (NOR/NOR, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) +1,8 s
6. Formaux/Coria (FRA/FRA, Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) +1,9 s
7. Rovanpera/Halttunen (FIN/FIN, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) +2,1 s
8. Munster/Louka (LUX/BEL, Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) +2,7 s
9. Sesks/Renars (LVA/LVA, Ford Puma Rally1) +3,7 s
10. Solberg/Edmondson (SWE/GBR, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +5,7 s
15. Marczyk/Gospodarczyk (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +7,9 s
16. Kołtun/Pleskot (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8,2 s
17. Kajetanowicz/Szczepaniak (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8,2 s
20. Matulka/Dymurski (POL/POL, Ford Fiesta Rally3) +9,8 s

ORLEN 80th Rally Poland – leg one itinerary

Friday, 28th of June 2024 (7 special stages, 113,5 km in total):

  • 8:45 SS 2 – Stańczyki 1 (29,4 km)
  • 10:20 SS 3 – Wieliczki 1 (12,9 km)
  • 11:10 SS 4 – Olecko 1 (13,2 km)
  • 12:40 Tyre fitting zone – 15 mins. (Olecko)
  • 14:05 SS 5 – Stańczyki 2 (29,4 km)
  • 15:40 SS 6 – Wieliczki 2 (12,9 km)
  • 16:30 SS 7 – Olecko 2 (13,2 km)
  • 19:00 SS 8 – Mikołajki Arena 2 (2,5 km)
  • 19:30 Service A – 45 mins. (Mikołajki, Hotel Gołębiewski)
  • 20:00 Meet the Crews (service park, Mikołajki, Hotel Gołębiewski)
  • 20:00 Rally Party (Rally Fan Park, Mikołajki Arena)