Marczyk leads Paddon after Rally Poland superspecial

Local driver makes a strong start to this year's Rally Poland

FIA European Rally Championship 2023 Stop 3 – Mikolajki, Poland

Polish driver Miko Marczyk leads his home round of the European Rally Championship, Rally Poland, over Hayden Paddon after Friday night’s superspecial stage.

A traditional rallying adage is that rallies can’t be won but they can be lost on superspecial stages, and that’s certainly true of Mikołajki Arena as it’s the stage Jari-Matti Latvala famously crashed out of right at the end of the 2009 event.

But there were no major casualties among the leading ERC contenders this year, who are in for two days of flat out action in the Polish forests over Saturday and Sunday.

Marczyk, who won Rally Poland last year, was quickest on the qualifying stage earlier on Friday, and continued that form onto the opening 1.5-mile test.

Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 driver Marczyk edged current championship leader Paddon by 0.9s, with WRC2 pilot Erik Cais another 0.2s back.

“Marczyk’s going to be very fast along with Mads [Østberg] and a whole load of other drivers,” commented Paddon.

“We’ll just take the same approach as the last two rallies – build our way into the rally and see where we are on Sunday.”

Just 2.4s split the top 10 with reigning ERC champion Efrén Llarena an early fourth, 1.3s off the lead and 0.7s up on local driver Grzegorz Gryzb.

Tom Kristensson is sixth ahead of Andrea Mabellini and Simone Tempestini who are tied for seventh with a stage time of 1m49.9s.

Mathieu Franceschi and Andrea Nucita complete the top 10 while Østberg is 16th, 3.1s off the lead.

On the weekend of the Renault Clio Rally3’s international debut, it squared off head-to-head against its rival, the Ford Fiesta Rally3 Evo, on the Mikołajki Arena superspecial.

Jon Armstrong, driving the Fiesta, outpaced Clio driver Paulo Soria by 2.3 seconds to head the ERC3 class overnight.

Mille Johansson leads Junior ERC but by just 0.4s over DirtFish-backed Max McRae after the opening stage.

But there was drama for Norwegian driver Ola Nore jr, as his co-driver looked to have lost their time card.

However Rune Eilertsen did eventually locate the time card and the pair, making their debut together, were able to check-in as normal.

Toyota Gazoo Racing Challenge Program driver Yuki Yamamoto was even unluckier, forced to retire his Renault Clio Rally5 with a broken driveshaft.