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WRC Rally Poland

WRC Poland: Rally leader Tanak crashes out, Mikkelsen leads from debutant Sesks

World Rally Championship title contender Ott Tanak has crashed out of the lead of Rally Poland on Friday morning’s opening stage.

Tanak had been tipped among the favourites to win on Poland’s high-speed gravel roads, but his victory hopes came to a sudden halt on stage two [Stanczyki, 29.40km].

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. The Estonian hit a deer which ripped the radiator out of the car. Tanak and co-driver Martin Jarveoja were unscathed following the crash.

"Unfortunately, we hit a dear," said Tanak, who is aiming to rejoin the rally tomorrow.

"No nothing is cooked. Everything is ok apart from some parts on the car but everything is changeable."

Tanak’s exit has handed the rally lead to the third Hyundai driven by Andreas Mikkelsen, who made the most of his lower road position to win the stage.

The Norwegian’s run wasn’t completely clean after clipping a hay bale but it didn’t stop him from scoring his first stage win since Wales Rally GB 2019.

"We tried to have a good pace, there was one corner where I hit a hay bale,” said Mikkelsen. "I tried to stay in the lines as this is the only thing we can do, we just have to attack the stage." 

Andreas Mikkelsen, Torstein Eriksen, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Andreas Mikkelsen, Torstein Eriksen, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Mikkelsen was 0.3s faster than Rally1 debutant Martins Sesks, who delivered a stunning time driving a non-hybrid powered version of the M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 car.

“What! Ok. That’ it," said a stunned Sesks when he was told his time that has moved him second overall, 2.2s adrift of Mikkelsen.

Reigning world champion Kalle Rovanpera climbed from seventh to third overall [+7.9s] after posting the third fastest time in the stage. The Toyota driver, who received a last-minute call up to replace the injured Sebastien Ogier, was frustrated by not being able to push due to his rushed preparation for the event.

“The driving was not really good, it’s so difficult on this rally. I don’t remember the stages like I should. I can’t take any more risks because I don’t know where I’m going,” said Rovanpera.

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

Gregoire Munster {+12.8s], Takamoto Katsuta [19.1s] and championship leader Thierry Neuville [+21.2s] rounded out the Rally1 field.

In WRC2, Sami Pajari led the class by 6.1s from Nikolay Gryazin after overnight leader Oliver Solberg suffered a power issue with his Skoda Fabia.

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