Nil Solans and Miko Marczyk are locked in a tight scrap for the lead on Rally Poland, the fourth round of the European Rally Championship season.
Solans kicked off his chase of the ERC title strongly with a win on the Friday night superspecial in Mikołajki. But World Rally Championship 2 regular Marczyk was quick to respond on Saturday morning, winning the Kyrzwe and Wojnasy stages to draw dead level at the head of the field with Solans.
Wieliczki, the longest stage of the rally at 15.14 miles, proved a turning point in the lead battle, as Solans put the hammer down to go fastest by 4.6s, which is now his overall advantage on the leaderboard.
Being able to launch into the lead on SS4 was no response to Marczyk’s advances, as Solans was quick to point out.
“It’s the first stage that we’ve done before, so it’s easy to show we have more confidence that we know the stages,” he said.
Marczyk meanwhile had been studying the onboards of one past Rally Poland winner in particular in his quest to find more speed on his home ERC round.
“It’s good from our side that yesterday we watched WRC+, quite a lot of Ott Tänak from 2015,” revealed Marczyk.
The Kowax 2B Racing team has two drivers in the podium positions as alongside Solans, its new signing for this weekend, is Tom Kristensson in third place.
Kristensson has been consistent if unspectacular, unable to challenge the top two on pure pace but thus far always in the top four on stage times, providing him a 7.1s cushion over the charging Ken Torn.
Reigning ERC Junior champion Torn was on a charge on Wieliczki, going 3.5s off Solans’ benchmark as he clocked the second-fastest time.
That vaulted Torn to the top of the upper-midfield slog, usurping the Škoda Fabia Rally2 evos of championship leader Efrén Llarena and Simone Tempestini, though he has only 3.7s in hand over Team MRF leader Llarena.
Going only eighth-fastest on Friday’s qualifying stage means Llarena is running much higher up the road order than title rival Solans, an important factor on a fast gravel rally like Poland.
Though Llarena described his pace as “good”, he went on to say his speed “wasn’t perfect” and he also potentially lost a small amount of time at the end of Wieliczki with a puncture in the final split.
Simone Campedelli had a nightmare start to his rally, hooking the inside of a water-filled ditch at a square right junction and sliding down into it, getting stuck and losing 26 minutes.
In a strange case of déjà vu, Gregor Jeets lost the gearshift on his Fabia, it snapping off in his hand on Wojnasy. It marked a repeat of an identical incident his father Raul suffered in the exact same car on Rally Liepāja two years earlier.
1 Nil Solans/Marc Marti (Hyundai) 11m54.8s
2 Ken Torn/Kauri Pannas (M-Sport Ford) +3.5s
3 Miko Marczyk/Szymon Gospodarczyk (Škoda) +4.6s
4 Tom Kristensson/Andreas Johansson (Hyundai) +7.4s
5 Efren Llarena/Sara Fernandez (Škoda) +10.6s
6 Adrian Chwietczuk/Damian Syty (Škoda) +12.4s
7 Simone Temepstini/Sergiu Itu (Škoda) +14.0s
8 Grzegorz Grzyb/Adam Binieda (Škoda) +14.3s
9 Vaidotas Zala/Ilka Minor (Škoda) +14.5s
10 Filip Mares/Radovan Bucha (Škoda) +17.4s
Leading positions after SS4
1 Solans/Marti (Hyundai) 27m53.8s
2 Marczyk/Gospodarczyk (Škoda) +4.6s
3 Kristensson/Johansson (Hyundai) +11.7s
4 Torn/Pannas (M-Sport Ford) +19.0s
5 Llarena/Fernandez (Škoda) +22.7s
6 Tempestini/Itu (Škoda) +26.0s
7 Chwietczuk/Syty (Škoda) +32.5s
8 Grzyb/Binieda (Škoda) +38.0s
9 Zala/Minor (Škoda) +41.0s
10 Mares/Bucha (Škoda) +45.6s