MIKOLAJKI: Belgian Thierry Neuville took a narrow lead at the end of the first full day of the Rally of Poland on Friday.
In difficult conditions, the Hyundai man reeled in Jari-Matti Latvala and Ott Tanak to take a 1.3-second lead over the latter after the 10th special stage, with Finn Latvala 6.6 seconds adrift.
Estonian Tanak is looking to make it two wins in a row after claiming his maiden World Rally Championship win in Sardinia last time out.
Four-time defending world champion Sebastien Ogier is 35.1seconds behind Neuville in fourth place.
“It’s been a good start to this rally for us, even if the conditions have been very demanding throughout the day,” said Neuville.
“The fight for the lead has been close and I don’t expect that to change over the next two days. We’re in a good position but there’s a lot more to come from everyone and more surprises I’m sure,” he added.
Lashing rain turned the dirt and dust roads into a mudbath at the start of the day, with the drivers struggling to retain control.
Toyota’s Latvala moved into the early lead, before the sixth stage was cancelled because of the dangerous conditions.
“It’s getting more slippery with every single car. You can’t fight physics,” he lamented.
Tanak, who was on course to win in Poland 12 months ago before a puncture in the penultimate speed test handed victory to Andreas Mikkelsen, briefly took the advantage as it turned into a three-way fight at the top.
But Neuville, 29, edged 1.5 seconds in front, thanks to a win in the ninth special, although Tanak did cut the advantage in the day’s final test by finishing second to Briton Elfyn Evans, who also won Thursday’s opening stage.
Frenchman Ogier, Tanak’s M-Sport team-mate, leads the overall standings by 18 points from Neuville, with five races remaining after the eighth leg of the season in Poland. AFP