PHOTO: Ogier takes an early lead in WRC Poland (Volkswagen pic)
SÉBASTIEN Ogier ruined hopes of a home victory by edging out local hero Robert Kubica to win the opening stage of Lotos 72nd Rally Poland on Thursday night.
Pole Kubica set fastest time in his Ford Fiesta RS by defeating Mads Østberg in the penultimate headline heat at the 2.50km Mikolajki Arena, only for Ogier to snatch victory by 0.5sec after beating Thierry Neuville in the final encounter.
“I’m sorry to spoil it for Robert because he did a good job here. It’s nice to see such a big crowd. It’s a great atmosphere and I think we’re going to have a good weekend,” Ogier said.
His Volkswagen Polo R teammate Andreas Mikkelsen was third despite swiping a barrier with the rear of his car as he fought to beat Kris Meeke, whose DS3 was rebuilt by Citroën mechanics after the Ulsterman rolled heavily in the morning’s shakedown.
Meeke was only 17th after stalling at the start.
The Fiesta RS cars of Martin Prokop and Ott Tänak were fourth and sixth, sandwiching the Polo R of Jari-Matti Latvala, for whom this is his 150th WRC start.
Citroën’s Stéphane Lefebvre was the top WRC 2 competitor in seventh after pipping Pontus Tidemand’s Skoda Fabia R5 by a tenth of a second.
The action restarts on Friday morning when competitors journey close to the Polish border with Russia and Lithuania, tackling eight stages covering 152.54km.