The fourth FIA European Rally Championship round – Rally Poland – takes place this weekend. Before 2018 it have been the FIA WRC round, but last year it came back to the European series calendar.
This weekend the participants will tackle two days of close fight: the main racing battles will fall on Saturday and Sunday; the crews will travel 115 and 86 kilometers respectively. 15 special stages on fast, gravel routes of the Mazurian Voivodeship are offered for the 49 participants of the European round in Poland.
The Russian crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov, performing in the Citroen C3 R5 of the French Sainteloc Junior Racing team, continues to fight for points in the season. At the moment the crew is in the third position of the general final classification after the last three rounds in Portugal, Spain and Latvia.
This week the crew has had a recce, made notes for the future race and had some pre-start tests. Most of the roads are laid in the forest zone and, according to the driver Alexey Lukyanuk, they resembles a gutter very much – they are cut in the soil with large walls at the edges. The soil contains a large amount of sand, so after the first sports cars a big rut is formed on the track.
Alexey Lukyanuk, driver, “We tried different settings and drove 80 kilometers – we jumped and went through the fast sections. The day was diverse. It was not enough as always, because after the tests there are thoughts about what could be done and how it could be improved. But we did a good job”.
Today in Mikolajki the drivers have participated in free practice and qualifying runs. The first Russians attempt was not the best – the car turned over on the track. However, the second passage results were “more fun” – the better time was shown. But the qualification run forced the guys to doubt in their own forces.
Alexey Lukyanuk, “The road was cleaned – there were changes with a grip on the track. We’ve passed the qualification, and it seemed to me that it was not bad. I’ve made a few small mistakes (it is quite difficult to drive in a rut). I know where I lost half a second or even a little bit more. As a result, there was some discouraging time at the finish. At first I saw that we lost a second and a half to Chris Ingram. And we even lost to Lucasz Habaj – we have never had a problem to pass him. Then other crews were passing and we’ve found out that our result was 12-13th. With a loss of almost three seconds to the best one. On the one hand, the road was changing, it was getting a little bit faster. On the other hand, those who rode ahead of us were also faster. We returned to the service park in serious doubts, but after watching the video it was obvious that our time was worse for a couple of seconds. The engineer checked the records from the control unit – we were faster there than at the training too, but the result was worse. The team manager wrote a letter to review the results, but at that moment, I’m sure, the organizers were engaged in these issues, since many participants had some incomprehensible results. In the end we were given our time, we are second at the qualification runs. It doesn’t affect the results of the rally, but allows us to choose a convenient starting position for tomorrow”.
Friday night is going to be pretty troublesome: position selection ceremonies, an autograph session, a start ceremony and the first short special stage with a length of only 2.5 kilometers – the Mikolajki Arena spectator track.
The Russians finished at the first competitive kilometers, ending the day at the second position in the overall standings, losing two seconds to the Finnish driver Jari Huttunen in the Hyundai I20 R5.