Poland - Shakedown
At the conclusion of this morning's shakedown ahead of Rally Poland, the two rivals currently at the top of the drivers' championship standings established identical fastest times: both Sebastien Loeb
and Mikko Hirvonen set best runs of 2:13.5 across the
3.4-kilometre sandy gravel route situated near the rally's headquarters and service park in Mikolajki.
The surface conditions changed during the four-hour set-up session, as wet weather passing over the area the night before resulted in damp roads which rapidly deteriorated as each passing car deepened the ruts.
With the WRC returning to Poland after a 36-year absence, today's final opportunity to work on the set-ups allowed the WRC drivers to discover that such rapidly changing road conditions upon the fine gravel will need to be dealt with during the rally itself.
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
set his best result early on during the shakedown period, recording it on the first of his five passes and feeling satisfied with the handling of his C4 WRC.
The Ford team's Mikko Hirvonen made his way through the test route only three times, signing a quickest run on his final pass and setting a tie at the top of the shakedown list.
However, aboard a sister Ford team Focus RS WRC, teammate Jari-Matti Latvala was third-fastest exactly a second behind the title rivals, thereby sending a signal to the two drivers ahead.
Citroen Junior Team driver Evgeny Novikov again displayed a growing competitiveness by signing the fourth-fastest result a half-second behind Latvala. The young Russian was fastest at the Acropolis Rally shajedown two weeks ago, and went on to sign several stage wins.
0.2sec close to Novikov, Petter Solberg's privateer Citroen Xsara claimed the fifth-best result as the Norwegian again intends to participate in the battle for the podium. The PSWRT driver was quicker than Citroen's Dani Sordo and the Stobart Ford outfit's Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg.
The 66th edition of Rally Poland begins this evening with a 2.5km super special stage in Mikolajki at 20:00 local time.
Rally Poland – Shakedown results:
1. LOEB-ELENA Citroen C4 WRC 2:13.5
2. HIRVONEN-LEHTINEN Ford Focus WRC 2:13.5
3. LATVALA-ANTTILA Ford Focus WRC 2:14.5
4. NOVIKOV-MOSCATT Citroen C4 WRC 2:15.0
5. SOLBERG-MILLS Citroen Xsara WRC 2:15.2
6. SORDO-MARTI Citroen C4 WRC 2:15.8
7. WILSON-MARTIN Ford Focus WRC 2:17.5
8. SOLBERG-MENKERUD Ford Focus WRC 2:17.7
9. MIKKELSEN-FLOENE Skoda Fabia WRC 2:19.4
10. OGIER-INGRASSIA Citroen C4 WRC 2:19.7