As Rally Poland returns to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) for the first time since 2009, the M-Sport World Rally Team will be looking to defend their previous form having claimed victory with Mikko Hirvonen five years previously.
The team’s past experience will prove vital when it comes to understanding the nature and character of the Polish stages, but with much of the route differing from the former encounter, the crews will need to muster all of their concentration and precision as they tackle what is effectively a brand-new event.
Based in the Masurian town of Mikolajki, the rally will also venture into neighbouring Lithuania for more high-speed kilometres. As well as being extremely fast, the sandy stages provide a slippery affair and the tree-lined route hides a multitude of obstacles which threaten to ensnare any crew who venture even slightly off line.
If that weren’t enough, the region’s unpredictable summer can play havoc with strategies. The threat of rain is ever present and shrewd tyre selections can make all the difference.
This is a rally in which the team need to apply all of their knowledge, skill and experience, but speed is arguably key. The fast gravel roads of Poland’s Lake District have been likened to those in Estonia and Finland, something which is sure to be an advantage to M-Sport’s resident Finns.
Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen know what it takes to succeed in Poland. Having won the event in 2009, the Scandinavian’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC will be a real contender for the podium.
The fast, flowing stages suit Hirvonen’s fearless style, and the well-honed pacenote system which he and Lehtinen have developed over their 10 year collaboration will provide the ideal base from which to demonstrate their speed.
Mikko Hirvonen said:
“This is an event that I really enjoy and we won in 2009 so I’m looking forward to returning to Poland next week. We have a good idea of what to expect in terms of the conditions, but the stages themselves will be almost completely new.
“Historically, I’ve always felt quite comfortable at new events so we’ll be looking to be in the fight for the top positions. Jarmo [Lehtinen, co-driver] and I will be making new notes for most of the stages, but that doesn’t really faze me as I’ve always been confident in our ability to do that.
“The stages are very fast and in some ways you could compare them to those in Finland, but the surface is completely different. In Finland the gravel is quite hard, but in Poland it’s really soft and sandy which means that they can become fairly rutted for the second pass.
“The competition will be tough, but I’m feeling really good ahead of this event and looking forward to bringing home what will hopefully be a strong result for the team