(30.06.2024) Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) won the ORLEN 80th Rally Poland, the seventh round of the 2024 WRC season. This was Finns’ maiden outing in Poland and second win in this season.

Rovanpera and Halttunen won with an advantage of 28,3 seconds on their Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mates Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid). French duo Adrien Fourmaux and Alexandre Coria (Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) took third overall, 42.7 s adrift of the winners. WRC standings leaders Thierry Neuville and Martjin Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) finished fourth (+1:10.8 s).

Amazing speeds on the Masurian gravel roads

The ORLEN 80th Rally Poland was the fourth gravel round of the world rally championship this year, but the first with such fast special stages. In the three previous rallies – Safari (Kenya), Portugal, and Sardinia (Italy) – the world’s best rally crews achieved much lower average speeds of 102, 91, and 86 kph respectively. Meanwhile, the fastest crew of this year’s Rally Poland covered the total distance of all special stages with an average speed of almost 120 km/h.

The anniversary edition of the Rally of Poland was held on 27-30 June. For the seventh time in its history, the event was part of the world rally championship calendar – the most important and prestigious rally series. The entire route of the rally was 1375 km long, of which just over 300 km was the total distance of 19 special stages.

A total of 42 crews representing 23 different countries, set off to compete on fast gravel stages in the Masurian Lake District. ORLEN 80th Rally Poland attracted participants from such remote parts of the globe as Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Nine crews drove the most powerful and fastest Rally1 cars. Twenty-two duos used Rally2 cars, and ten crews prepared Rally3 machinery. The weather was sunny and rain-free throughout the weekend, so the crews competed on a dry surface.

Last-minute winners

Rovanpera and Halttunen, the winners of ORLEN 80th Rally Poland, were not due to compete at all. The Toyota team ‘called them up’ for the event at the last minute, as Sebastien Ogier and Vincent Landais withdrew from the competition after a recce accident. Rovanpera and Halttunen arrived in Mikolajki on Tuesday evening and were in a rush to make pace notes. Only on Wednesday they spent 14 hours doing recce.

The two-time world champions started the rally cautiously. On the opening stage (Mikołajki Arena, 2.5 km) they posted seventh fastest time. After the first loop on Friday, they were in fourth place, 14.2 seconds behind the leaders. They launched their attack on Friday afternoon, winning the second run of the rally’s longest stage (Swietajno, 29.4 km), as well as leg-ending clash at the Mikołajki Arena (2,5 km).

As a result, they ended the day as second-placed crew, with a minimal (1.8 s) loss to first place. Only Andreas Mikkelsen and Torstein Eriksen (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) were ahead of them. On Friday, the Norwegians benefited from a good starting position and better grip. They were eighth on the start list, so they drove on a road ‘swept’ from loose gravel and sand by previous cars. Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) also were in contention for victory. The Brits were in third place, with just two seconds separating them from the leaders.

Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja’s (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) battle for victory came to premature stop after they collided with a deer on SS2. Due to damage the car suffered they had to withdraw from competition.

Finns shone on Saturday

After a somewhat conservative start to the rally, Rovanpera and Halttunen dominated the second and longest day of the rally. On Saturday they won six out of seven special stages. They also showed impressive performance at the Mikolajki Arena track, where they set a new record of the 2.5-kilometre loop. Finns clocked a 3.1-seconds faster time than previous record-holders – Ogier and Ingrassia (2015 in Volkswagen Polo R WRC).

Both Evans and Mikkelsen did their best not to allow the 23-year-old Finn to increase his lead. However, British driver had a problem with his rear right tyre, which lost tread at the end of the 13th stage (Swietajno, 18.5km), causing a loss of nearly nine seconds to Rovanpera. Mikkelsen, on the other hand, driving on harder tyres, tried to attack, but could not keep the pace of Rovanpera, who have chosen the soft versions of the Pirelli Scorpion tyres.

Rovanpera finished the day 9.4 seconds ahead of Mikkelsen and 16.1 seconds ahead of third-placed Evans.

Tanak fastest on Sunday

New scoring system has been introduced in WRC this season. Of the 30 points up for grabs for best crew, 18 points can be won by finishing in first place after Saturday’s stages, seven are awarded to the fastest crew of the final day and five points are awarded for the best time on the event-ending Wolf Power Stage.

Hence, Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja began their flat-out battle for points on the final day. The Estonians were back on the stages on Sunday morning, winning two out of the four final tests and claiming a maximum of points for their triumph in the final day of the rally, as well as four points for the second result on the Wolf Power Stage.

Sunday’s first stage brought a change in the top of the leaderboard. Second-placed Mikkelsen touched the bank and damaged rear tyre. He lost a minute on this stage alone and dropped in the rally’s overall standings. This situation elevated Evans to second and Fourmaux to third place. On the final three stages, the top three driver focused on keeping their positions.

Rovanpera and Halttunen took their 13th victory in a world championship round. Evans and Martin’s second place (+28.3s) was their 34th and 29th podium respectively. Meanwhile, Fourmaux and Coria took the third place for the third time this season (+42.7 s).

Championship leaders Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) came fourth. The Belgians lost a total of 1:10.8 s to the winners but were fastest on the Wolf Power Stage and finished fifth in the Sunday’s leg standings. In consequence they scored 14 points in Poland.

36.2 seconds behind the Hyundai duo were Martins Sesks and Renars Francis (Ford Puma Rally1). The Latvians debuted in a Rally1 car, but they were the only ones driving without hybrid powertrain, which allows power to be temporarily boosted up to 530 hp.

Having lost their second position, Mikkelsen and Eriksen’s only goal was to get to the finish line to score points for the second place they held before the final day of competition. They eventually finished in sixth place (+2:16.6s).

Evans closer to Neuville

Rovanpera and Halttunem came to Mikolajki to help the team score as many points as possible. They performed very well, scoring a total of 27 points – 18 for first place after Saturday’s leg, six for second place on Sunday, and three for third place on the Wolf Power Stage.

Evans and Martin had a rally full of unlucky events, but thanks to their solid pace they managed to score 17 points in Poland, three more than WRC leaders Neuville and Wydaeghe and six more than Tanak and Jarveoja, with whom they shared second place before the Polish round. Fourmaux and Coria also scored 17 points in Mikolajki.

After seven rounds of the world championship, Neuville and Wydaeghe lead the way (136 points), second place belongs to Evans and Martin (121 points), while Tanak and Jarveoja (115 points) hold third position. In the manufacturers’ standings, the leader is the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team (311 points), which has a 10-point lead over Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT. In third place is M-Sport Ford (156 points).

2.9 seconds decided

Sami Pajari and Enni Malkonen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) won the WRC2 category. The 22-year-old Finn showed fast, efficient, and mature drive. He took the lead already after the second special stage and steadily built up a lead on the following stages, which he then controlled until the finish. Oliver Solberg and Elliot Edmondson (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2, +22 s) finished in second place, with Robert Vivres and Aleks Lesk (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2, +1:23.3 s) securing third position.

Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Maciej Szczepaniak, who had been second-placed duo and fastest Polish crew until the 11th stage, dropped out of the battle for the WRC2 triumph prematurely. Saving themselves from a rollover, they went off the road, damaged the suspension, and had to withdraw. To make up for it, the Poles managed to win three stages in the WRC2 category.

Mikołaj Marczyk and Szymon Gospodarczyk (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2, +2:25.9s) finished tenth in WRC2. After three days of rallying, the Poles ‘tied’ with the Finnish duo Teemu Sunninen/Mikko Markkula (Hyundai i20 N Rally2), who finished the rally in the same time as the two-time Polish champions.

In the WRC3 class, it was Jakub Matulka and Daniel Dymurski (Ford Fiesta Rally3) who lost first place two stages before the finish. The Poles won six special stages. After the twelfth test, they had a 21.6s lead over the Diego Dominguez Jr./Rogelio Penate (Ford Fiesta Rally3) crew. However, the WRC3 points leaders started to make up ground and jumped over Matulka and Dymurski in classification after stage number 18. The Poles finished the rally 2.9 s behind the class winners.

ORLEN 80th Rally Poland results:

1. Rovanpera/Halttunen (FIN/FIN, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) 2:33:07,6 s
2. Evans/Martin (GBR/GBR, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) +28,3 s
3. Formaux/Coria (FRA/FRA, Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) +42,7 s
4. Neuville/Wydaeghe (BEL/BEL, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) +1:10,8 s
5. Sesks/Renars (LVA/LVA, Ford Puma Rally1) +1:47,0 s
6. Mikkelsen/Eriksen (NOR/NOR, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) +2:16,6 s
7. Munster/Louka (LUX/BEL, Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid) +2:18,0 s
8. Katsuta/Johnston (JPN/IRL, Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid) +2:26,7 s
9. Pajari/Malkonen (FIN/FIN, Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) +7:50,7 s
10. Solberg/Edmondson (SWE/GBR, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +8:12,7 s
18. Marczyk/Gospodarczyk (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +10:16,6 s
24. Matulka/Dymurski (POL/POL, Ford Fiesta Rally3) +20:24,1 s
27. Sołowow/Baran (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +21:46,1 s
28. Kołtun/Pleskot (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +25:42,1 s
29. Kowalczyk/Hryniuk (POL/POL, Renault Clio Rally3) +26:03,1 s
33. Roefler/Bała (POL/POL, Ford Fiesta Rally3) +35:24,3 s
34. Kajetanowicz/Szczepaniak (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +1:10:31,4 s
35. Musiał/Dudziński (POL/POL, Skoda Fabia Evo Rally2) +1:28:20,5 s
36. Tanak/Jarveoja (EST/EST, Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid) +1:39:47,0 s