Rally News

Mikkelsen extends lead as debutant Sesks stars

Martins Sesks, Renars Francis, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen heads into Friday afternoon with the Rally Poland lead from Martins Sesks, who stunned on his World Rally Championship Rally1 debut.

Mikkelsen impressed throughout the morning to win two of the three stages to leap into a 7.4s lead from Sesks, who is driving a non-hybrid powered Ford Puma Rally1 car.

Elfyn Evans limited the damage of starting high in the road order to lead Toyota’s charge in third [+11.9s] ahead of Sebastien Ogier’s replacement Kalle Rovanpera [+14.2s], with M-Sport’s Adrien Foumaux in fifth [+15.1s].

M-Sport’s Gregoire Munster [+15.9s], championship leader Thierry Neuville [+32.2s] and Takamoto Katsuta [+38.0s] rounded out the Rally1 field after Ott Tanak’s retirement.

The overnight leaderboard was turned on its head after the day’s opening stage two [Stanczyki, 29.40km] when leader and rally favourite Tanak came to a sudden halt.

The Hyundai driver had started Friday with a one second lead over team-mate Thierry Neuville after winning Thursday night’s super special.

However, Tanak was forced to pull off the road 18.3km into the test with damage to the front of his i20 N after hitting a deer. Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja escaped unscathed following the crash.

This handed his team-mate Mikkelsen the rally lead, as the Norwegian claimed his first stage win since 2019 Wales Rally GB on his third outing of the season in the third i20 N. Mikkelsen was 0.3s faster than Sesks.

Martins Sesks, Renars Francis, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo by: M-Sport

Reigning world champion Rovanpera climbed from seventh to third overall with the third fastest time in the stage. The Toyota driver, who received a last-minute call up to replace Ogier following the Frenchman’s road traffic accident while gathering pacenotes, was frustrated by not being able to push due to his rushed preparation for an event that was not originally part of his limited schedule of events this year.

M-Sport’s Fourmaux moved to fourth, which he shared with Evans, 8.0s adrift of Mikkelsen.

Organisers were forced to cancel stage three [Wieliczki, 12.90km] for spectator safety reasons. The decision arrived after Neuville, Evans, Fourmaux and Katsuta had completed their passes through the test.

With the road cleaning effect not as bad, Neuville clocked the fastest time of the quartet, 0.5s faster than Evans, with Fourmaux 0.7s adrift and Katsuta 3.5s back after a lucky escape…

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