(29.06.2024) With four special stages to go, the battle for victory in the ORLEN 80th Rally Poland is far from settled. Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen made an important step to winning the Polish WRC counter in their maiden outing in Poland. Toyota crew won as many as six out of seven stages held today and leads the overall standings. The two-time world champions will kick off the final stage with a lead of almost 10 seconds over the next crew.

On Saturday, 29 June, the world’s best rally crews competed again on fast and extremely spectacular gravel stages northeast of Mikolajki. The rally’s longest leg (124.1 km in total) featured two runs of Swietajno (18.5 km), Gołdap (19.9 km) and Czarne (22.4 km) stages. At the end of the first loop, but before the midday service, the third and last clash at Mikołajki Arena Circuit (2.5 km) was scheduled. Just like yesterday, today’s battle took place in stable, sunny weather and on a dry surface.

Today’s slightly more sandy special stages were not slower than yesterday’s speed tests.

Crews in Rally1 cars, developing up to 530 bhp, covered the second pass of the Goldap stage with an average speed of nearly 127 kph.

Rovanpera and Halttunen set the pace

It was the Finns – Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen – who set the pace from the very beginning of Saturday’s leg. The two-time world champions were not hindered at all by the fact that they were called up by the team for the Rally of Poland literally at the last minute and had to complete the recce quicker than their rivals.

During the first loop, the Toyota Gazoo Racing duo won three out of four stages. However, their rivals – both the Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) and Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) did not allow them to stretch the lead in overall standings.

The Finns were fastest on Swietajno and Goldap tests, as well as on the Mikołajki Arena track, where they set a new record for the 2.5 km loop – 1:40.8 s. Mikkelsen and Eriksen responded by clocking the fastest time on the Czarne stage.

In the afternoon, Rovanpera and Halttunen kept their rivals at bay, winning all three remaining stages. Finns opted to take four soft-compound tyres and one hard, while Mikkelsen and Eriksen went for three hard and two soft Pirelli Scorpion tyres. Norwegian driver decided to take a more aggressive approach during the second loop when gravel roads were already rutted and bumpy after the first runs. Second-placed Evans’ tyre choice was identical to Rovanpera’s yet proven to be unlucky for the Welshman. One of the soft tyres, fitted to the right rear wheel, literally disintegrated in the last part of SS 13 (Świetajno 2), which saw Evans lose 9,3 seconds to Rovanpera. This result dropped Toyota driver to third overall, while Mikkelsen climbed up to second place.

Finns close to victory

Rovanpera and Halttunen will kick off the final stage of the ORLEN 80th Rally Poland as leaders of the overall standings. Mikkelsen and Eriksen, currently second, need to cut a 9.4-second gap to catch the Finns. There is a much more demanding challenge ahead of Evans and Martin. The third-placed duo is 16,1 seconds adrift of the lead before the final leg.

Adrien Fourmaux and Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) hold fourth overall, 37 seconds behind Rovanpera and Halttunen and 20.9 seconds behind Evans and Martin. Martins Sesks and Renars Francis (Ford Puma Rally1) – the only crew driving a non-hybrid Rally1 car – will try to defend fifth place, having Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) just on their tail. The Belgians, who lead the championship points, are in sixth position, but just 0.1 s separate them from the Latvian duo.

Pajari with a second victory in his sight

In the WRC2 category, Sami Pajari and Enni Malkonen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) were in a class of their own during Saturday’s leg of the event. Finnish duo won four out of seven stages

and is on course to land a second consecutive WRC2 victory. The Finnish hold a healthy margin over Oliver Solberg and Emil Edmondson (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2, +26,3 s) and 29.3 s over the Estonian duo Robert Vivres/Aleks Lesk (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2).

9th place in WRC2 belongs to Mikołaj Marczyk and Szymon Gospodarczyk (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2), who are separated from the category leaders by just over one and a half minutes. Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Maciej Szczepaniak had to withdraw from the competition on Saturday. The 2023 Challenger WRC2 winners had a chance to win the WRC2 category but suffered serious suspension damage on the 11th special stage. The Orlen Team crew is about to restart on Sunday.

In the WRC3 category, Jakub Matulka and Daniel Dymurski (Ford Fiesta Rally3) are in first place. Their lead over the series leaders and winners of the previous two rounds Diego Dominguez and Rogelio Penate is just 5.5 s.

Four stages to go

Two special stages, both run twice, are scheduled for the final leg of the rally. On Sunday, the crews will head to the west of Mikolajki where Gmina Mrągowo (20.8 km) and Mikolajki (10.73 km) stages are located. The second pass of the latter will be held as the Wolf Power Stage. Sunday’s leg features as many as 63 competitive kilometres.

The finish ceremony will take place at 2:35 PM, just after the finish line of the Wolf Power Stage, the last metres of which are set at the Mikolajki Arena track.

ORLEN 80th Rally Poland – overall standings after SS 15:

1. Rovanpera/Halttunen (FIN/FIN, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) 2:00:44,0 s
2. Mikkelsen/Eriksen (NOR/NOR, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) +9,4 s
3. Evans/Martin (GBR/GBR, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) +16,1 s
4. Formaux/Coria (FRA/FRA, Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) +37,0 s
5. Sesks/Renars (LVA/LVA, Ford Puma Rally1) +58,2 s
6. Neuville/Wydaeghe (BEL/BEL, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) +58,3 s
7. Munster/Louka (LUX/BEL, Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) +1:24,5 s
8. Katsuta/Johnston (JPN/IRL, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) +1:41,9 s
9. Pajari/Malkonen (FIN/FIN, Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +5:46,5 s
10. Solberg/Edmondson (SWE/GBR, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +6:12,8 s
17. Marczyk/Gospodarczyk (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +7:17,6 s s
25. Matulka/Dymurski (POL/POL, Ford Fiesta Rally3) +15:47,8 s
28. Sołowow/Baran (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +16:41,7 s

ORLEN 80th Rally Poland – leg three itinerary

Sunday, 30th of June 2024 (4 special stages, 64 km in total):

  • 09:00 SS-16 Gmina Mrągowo 1
  • 10:05 SS-17 Mikołajki 1
  • 10:30 Regrouping Rally Fan Park Mikołajki Arena
  • 12:20 SS-18 Gmina Mrągowo 2
  • 14:15 SS-19 Mikołajki 2 (Wolf Power Stage)
  • 15:15 Rally finish