The seventh round of the 2015 WRC season played out over the weekend, with the world’s best rally drivers heading to Poland to take on nearly 200 high-speed miles of dirt and gravel. Conditions were sunny and hot, with the thermometer topping out at over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Lining the roadway was tall grass that not only hampered visibility, but also masked rocks and other hazards, making corner-cutting a dicey proposition.

Rally Poland is one of the oldest rallies on the calendar, first seeing competition in 1921 and playing a part in the inaugural 1973 WRC season. Roughly 90 percent of the route was new this year, but that didn’t stop Sebastien Ogier from clinching a back-to-back win, his fifth victory of 2015.

The defending world champion led the rally after the first stage Thursday night, but dropped back to third in Friday’s early stages. However, Ogier managed to retake the lead Friday afternoon and held off teammate Andreas Mikkelsen throughout the weekend, ending the rally almost 12 seconds ahead. Breaking up the VW podium was Ford’s Ott Tanak, who managed to match his career-best finish in third place, sliding ahead of VW’s Jari Matti Latvala after the Finn crashed out towards the end of the rally.

Ogier took home three bonus points with a win in the final Power Stage, while Tanak secured two and Mikkelsen got one.

Continue reading for the full story.

The Full Story Behind Rally Poland 2015

The Frenchman put on a good showing to hold off the hard-charging and win-hungry Mikkelsen, but it was by no means an easy win. From the off, Ogier was at a disadvantage, leading in road position and tasked with gravel-clearing responsibilities, giving those that followed a cleaner line. By the end of Friday, Mikkelsen was nipping at Ogier’s heels with just a handful of seconds separating the two, which meant Ogier would need a flawless performance to come out on top.

From the off, Ogier was at a disadvantage, leading in road position and tasked with gravel-clearing responsibilities, giving those that followed a cleaner line.

The heat made tire choice particularly important. Mikkelsen went with hard compounds on Saturday in an attempt to overtake Ogier, who was running a softer compound, but persistent dust kept him from besting his teammate.

The battle for third was equally contentious, with Tanak and Latvala giving a bit of back-and-forth in the race to the end. Only 1.1 seconds separated the two at the start of the final stage, but Latvala ended up hitting a tree just a few miles before the finish, cracking his 2015 Volkswagen Polo R’s radiator in the process. Impressively, Latvala, managed to fix the damage and continue on, but received a 40-second penalty for checking in late, punting him back to fifth overall.

Hayden Paddon was able to take advantage of Latvala’s misfortune, wheeling his 2014 Hyundai i20 to an impressive fourth-place finish, a fantastic follow-up to his second-place finish in Italy last month.

Robert Kubica was pushing hard for a good result at his home event, but unfortunately suffered a puncture on the final stage. However, the privateer still managed to clinch an eighth-place finish overall, his best result of the season.

The 2015 Season So Far

With Rally Poland 2015 now in the history books, we see a little shuffling in the leaderboards.

In the championship hunt, Mads Ostberg slipped to third behind Mikkelsen, after his ninth-place finish in Poland netted him only 2 points to Mikkelsen’s 19. Meanwhile, a max-possible 28 points for Ogier sees his lead extend even further to 161 points, far ahead of the second-place Mikkelsen’s 83. Latvala is fourth, with 66 points, while Thierry Neuville is fifth with 58 points.

All told, it’s looking like Ogier is well on his way to a third world title.

All told, it’s looking like Ogier is well on his way to a third world title.

So far this year, Ogier has brought home several fantastic wins, but to him, this latest result in Poland was particularly special. “For 90 percent of the rally I opened the road so this is amazing,” Ogier told WRC.com. “I had to push from the first meter to the last. To take 28 points here is the perfect start to the summer holidays.”

Congratulations, Ogier. You deserve the time off.

Looking at his performance this year, Ogier has been simply unflappable. Rally Argentina was a fluke, with the Polo R seeing mechanical issues early on, and although he didn’t win Rally Portugal, he still managed 21 points with a second-place finish and +3 Power Stage bonus.

He almost makes it look easy, but considering how close Mikkelsen got to ousting Ogier in Poland over the weekend, it’s clear Ogier must stay in top form to continue his string of wins.

Up next, the WRC heads to the high-speed test of Rally Finland.

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