What we learned from Rally Poland 2024

Title race shifts, star debuts and a change in the WRC2 hierarchy all came to the fore in Poland


On a weekend where Kalle Rovanperä was supposed to be watching from home, his rivals were the ones watching instead as the world champion streaked clear to yet another World Rally Championship victory – perfectly deputizing for Toyota team-mate Sébastien Ogier following his recce accident.

It was the sort of drive that reminded everyone – if anyone needed to be reminded, that is – just how much quality Rovanperä has. But his superb against-the-odds win was far from the only story of Rally Poland 2024.

From a superb podium (yet again) for Adrien Fourmaux, a stunning Rally1 debut, a much-needed return to form for Hyundai’s third driver and more twists in the title race, here is what we learned from the trip to Mikołajki.

Title race continues to close in

Yes, the gap between points leader Thierry Neuville and third-placed Ott Tänak grew by three points (to 21) after Poland, but Neuville’s lead over Evans has now shrunk again to 15. The Belgian maintains the lead he has held all season, but this championship is still fully up for grabs.


His powerstage performance aside, Thierry Neuville failed to make a big impact in Poland

Poland was far from Neuville’s best weekend of the season. Except for last time out in Sardinia where he slid off the road, his sixth place on Saturday was his lowest of the season so far – and his fifth on Super Sunday was his lowest since Croatia where that pacenote error led to him going off the road.

Evans wasn’t able to fully capitalize – although he claimed his first podium in three events, tire troubles were a source of frustration and likely cost him some handy points on the powerstage, too.

The one left licking his wounds though is Tänak. An unavoidable collision with a deer on the rally’s first proper stage means the Estonian’s potential in Poland has to go down as a frustrating ‘what if’, but as he has done so often this season, his Super Sunday performance was mighty. In the end, Tänak only dropped six points to Evans, who scored highest of the championship-chasing trio.

Neuville still sits at the summit, but Evans’ improved pace and Tänak’s obvious threat on fast-gravel events – of which there are two more coming up – means this title race is far from settled as the WRC’s summer of speed heats up.

Sesks proves himself and non-hybrid

Rovanperä has earned plenty of plaudits for his epic victory, but arguably the real hero of Rally Poland was Mārtiņš Sesks. The young Latvian’s performance was, quite simply, one of the best WRC debuts we’ve ever seen.

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Sesks looked confident and in control on the stages, belying his lack of Rally1 experience

Some factors were playing in his favor – Poland is a rally Sesks knows well, and has won before as recently as last year. He had a good road position on Friday, and he didn’t need to learn the quirks of hybrid because his Ford Puma Rally1 wasn’t equipped with it – nor did he lose too much without it on a rally where cars spend so much time close to the limiter like Poland.

But for him to go second fastest on SS2 was extraordinary, and although that was the peak in terms of stage results his pace was always there or thereabouts. That run to deny Neuville fifth place at the end of Saturday by just 0.1s was brave, gutsy and indicative of a driver ready to take any opportunity he possibly can.

That’s what Sesks did in Poland. He grabbed his opportunity with both hands and fully maximized it, and in doing so proved the capabilities of Rally1 cars without a hybrid unit too.

For Sesks. for M-Sport, for the WRC as a whole last weekend was a win-win-win.

Spectator problems still haunt Poland

What, sadly, can’t be considered a win were the spectating issues that once again plagued Rally Poland.

Mikołajki going from a continental to a global epicenter of rallying this year clearly had an impact on the spectating numbers at the weekend. World trumps European, and the fans were out in their droves to watch the world’s best on Polish soil for the first time since 2017.

Unfortunately the movement of some fans into dangerous locations after the safety cars had passed through caused either the cancellation or interruption of three of Friday’s seven special stages – a cruel blow for the organizers who had worked incredibly hard to mitigate these problems.

Things did at least improve for the rest of the weekend, but the damage was probably already done by that stage. Poland was only intended to be back in the WRC for one year and you wouldn’t bet on it returning any time soon, particularly given how competitive calendar slots are these days.

Which is a shame, because the WRC needs rallies with a fanbase like Poland’s. But not if sections of that fanbase cannot behave themselves.

Mikkelsen can cut it in a Rally1

Neither of Andreas Mikkelsen’s previous performances this season were up to the standard he expected, Hyundai expected or the world knew his talent was capable of. But Monte Carlo and Croatia are both asphalt events; how would Andreas perform on the gravel of Poland?

Rather well, as it turned out.


Mikkelsen outscored both his team-mates in Poland. The only other time this year Hyundai's third car has outscored both full-timers was Esapekka Lappi in Sweden

The final result of sixth place does Mikkelsen a major injustice. The Norwegian was in the fight for the win basically throughout (albeit aided by a strong start position on Friday) and would have finished at least second had he not punctured on Sunday’s first stage.

With big points to protect from the end of Saturday, he sensibly chose to check his pace thereafter leading to his drop to sixth, but in many ways the final result is irrelevant in this case.

What Mikkelsen proved to himself, to Hyundai, to the world is that he is still a driver capable of winning world rallies. But based on last weekend’s performance, he has a much stronger chance of doing that on gravel than asphalt.

Pajari becoming the WRC2 benchmark

That’s two wins on the trot for Sami Pajari, and three for Toyota’s GR Yaris Rally2. Although Citroën pilot Yohan Rossel still leads the championship, it’s hard to look beyond Pajari as the current yardstick in WRC2.

Off the back of a fine win in Sardinia, Pajari was flawless in Poland. Leading from the very first forest stage, the Finn didn’t look back in a crushing – and well-timed – performance given his Rally1 debut is now but a month away. A third successive win next time out in Latvia would make that even sweeter.

While Pajari outlined his credentials in becoming the season’s first repeat winner, pre-season favorites Oliver Solberg and particularly Gus Greensmith struggled.


Oliver Solberg rescued second place after a slow start – but he well beaten by Pajari in Poland

Solberg was almost furious on Friday – unhappy with the feeling of his Škoda and losing confidence as he also lost time sweeping the line clear for the other Rally2 crews. But he came alive over the rest of the weekend to soar back up to take second – which could prove vital come season’s end when the calculators come out to work out the champion.

Greensmith, though, just never really got going. Also struggling for any kind of confidence or rhythm aboard his Fabia RS Rally2, the Briton could only finish ninth in class and over two minutes down on Pajari’s winning time.

Although that does reward Greensmith with a couple of points, he’ll be desperately hoping to drop those in his quest to become champion. And after that agonizing retirement from the lead of Portugal, Greensmith now needs to score big on each of his remaining rallies to stay in the title equation.