OTT Tänak broke his FIA World Rally Championship duck by winning in Italy earlier this month and starts Orlen 74th Rally Poland today keen to banish the memories of previous heartbreak there.
He led in 2015 and 2016 and was on course to win 12 months ago when a puncture in the penultimate stage handed victory to Andreas Mikkelsen. A tearful Tänak was consoled by rivals at the finish.
The pressure to secure a breakthrough success increased until the Estonian triumphed in Sardinia three weeks ago, leaving him relaxed for the super-fast encounter on Poland’s sandy roads.
“Everyone knows Poland is one of my favourite events,” he said.
“The stages are so fast and flowing and that’s something that I really enjoy. I grew up on roads like this in Estonia and this year will be even more of an adrenaline rush with the new cars.
“This is a real drivers’ rally. The speeds are incredible and you have to be full of confidence. The pace notes have to be perfect and the smallest of hesitations can cost you speed and time, something which is very hard to get back on these fast roads.”
Tänak’s win promoted him to third in the championship with six rounds remaining. Strong results in Poland and at next month’s Neste Rally Finland could close the gap to leader and M-Sport World Rally Team colleague Sébastien Ogier.
“I’m sure a lot of people will be looking at us as we’ve done very well here in the past, but let’s see what happens. We won’t have the best start position as third car on the road, but we had a good test in Estonia and we’re feeling fairly positive,” Tänak added.
The rally, based at Mikolajki in the Masurian lake district, starts on Thursday night local time. Drivers face 23 special stages covering 320.56km before Sunday afternoon’s finish.