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Unbeaten Solans Takes Treble Top In Poland

It was a terrific treble for FIA Junior World Rally Championship leaders Nil Solans and Miki Ibanez when a 15.4-second victory at Orlen Rally Poland saw them take wins on all three rounds of the series to hold a 39-point championship lead.

The Spaniards adopted another clever strategy on a treacherously slippery event to set nine fastest stage times and remain unbeaten, winning from Swedes Dennis Rådström and Johan Johansson. Solans’ performance also saw him extend his lead in the WRC 3 championship after another victory in the support category and finish top two-wheel-drive car on Rally Poland.

Top-rookie Rådström vowed to improve his pace in Poland and he did exactly that, surprising even himself. On only his third WRC event, he was unbeaten on six stages to finish second, take his best result and first podium of the season. He moves up to fourth in the championship.

French pairing Nicolas Ciamin and Tibo de la Haye struggled with the wet conditions over the weekend but improved their pace and moved into the final podium spot on the penultimate stage.

They benefitted when fellow countrymen Terry Folb and Christopher Guieu lost time after puncturing a tyre, dropping two minutes and sliding back to fourth. Folb showed bursts of speed over the weekend to set five quickest times and had been comfortable in third before his problem.

Newcomer Emil Lindholm, on his first full WRC rally, was a surprise leader on the opening day. He collided with a tree, however, on stage 16 and retired for the day – but returned on Sunday to set the best time on the final stage of the rally.

German driver Julius Tannert struggled with the inconsistent conditions and high commitment stages but managed the situation well to improve over the weekend. It was also a learning event for Dillon Van Way and Sebastian Careaga who gained maximum experience in very alien conditions.

Rally Poland was another extremely positive rally for the Junior competitors, who all took a clever approach to finish the tough event. On the home round for the M-Sport Poland team, the competitive Ford Fiesta R2T-based championship saw four different leaders and four different stage winners over the weekend.

Championship partners DMACK used their DMG+22 tyre in medium G43 compound – which coped remarkably with the mud, standing water and difficult sandy stages.

Maciek Woda, M-Sport’s Junior WRC manager, said:

“We’ve had another extremely competitive and positive event. Well done to Nil and Miki for their third victory and also to Dennis and Johan for some consistently fast times. We’ve again demonstrated just how competitive this format is with four different rally leaders and stage winners over a very tough weekend.”

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:

“Once again Nil has been a class act and controlled a very difficult rally. Our DMG+22 tyres coped remarkably well with the treacherously slippery conditions and delivered the performance to master the rally, win WRC 3 and finish as top two-wheel-drive car.”

Top-Three Driver Comments

Nil Solans: “It was another great event for us and we’re so happy to have taken three wins. It was a very difficult rally and we had to be careful at the start. But then we lifted the pace and controlled the rally. The rain, and the fact we were first two-wheel-drive car on the road, made things very difficult but it’s nice to be top of the podium again.”

Dennis Rådström: “This was really a dream result for us. It’s only our third WRC event and we could never think of being so close to the top. We were a little cautious at some points over the weekend but the conditions were difficult. We pushed harder when the roads were better. Overall it has been a very good event and we’re really happy with the weekend.”

Nicolas Ciamin: “The conditions were very difficult and I knew we wouldn’t be able to challenge at the top if it was wet. So the plan was to try and improve the pace and secure the maximum experience. We didn’t really make any mistakes and luckily that approach worked as we benefitted on the last day to move into third place.”

Individual Competitor News

Sebastian Careaga / Rodrigo Sanjuan

With no experience of muddy conditions or rutted roads, Rally Poland was a big learning experience for Careaga. With its torrential rain and mud-covered roads, the first day was a difficult challenge for the Bolivian. But when the stages dried up he improved the pace and gained more confidence in his pacenotes on the flat-out, high commitment stages.

Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye

Ciamin admitted before the rally that he wouldn’t have the experience to challenge if the weather was wet and he struggled to match the pace of the leaders. The French pair were consistently setting top-three times and battled a number of time-consuming problems to collect a solid haul of points after sneaking into the podium places.

Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu

Folb managed to set five fastest stage times despite not getting fully into the swing of things. He struggled on Friday to get a good feeling, was either pushing a little too hard or braking too early and had a couple of slides and stalls. He had experience of the stages from last year but the conditions were completely different and he was unlucky to miss out on a podium after collecting a puncture on the final day.

Emil Lindholm / Tomi Tuominen

The Finns retired on Saturday after going off the road and colliding heavily with a tree. However, before that, they had been showing an impressive pace. It was Lindholm’s first full WRC event and first time in the Fiesta R2T, and he was an early rally leader on Friday and a stage winner on Sunday. He came here to get experience and check his speed against the front-runners so it was still mission accomplished.

Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson

The Swedish pair stepped things up a gear this weekend and showed a strong pace. Radstrom admitted he never expected to be challenging for top times and the rally lead so early in the season but could still have gone a little faster. It was his best performance of the season, with six fastest times and a debut podium, even though he admitted to being too cautious at times.

Nil Solans / Miki Ibanez

Another perfect rally for the Spaniards, they controlled the event, managed their pace and increased their championship lead. Solans took it steady on the first morning but then lifted the pace with a series of fastest times on Saturday to open up a strong gap. He maintained that to the finish despite a scare on the final day when he lost time with a puncture.

Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl

Overall Tannert and Heigl were happy with their pace in Poland. German Tannert has limited experience on gravel and found the high speeds to be a real challenge. He picked up a puncture on Saturday after hitting a rock, which put him adrift of the leaders, so it was then a matter of setting some solid times and getting the gravel mileage and experience.

Dillon Van Way / Dai Roberts

Van Way came to Poland with the target of getting close to the leading drivers but he struggled to match their pace as things just didn’t click into place for him and British co-driver Dai Roberts. They pushed as hard as they dared, taking a few risks but still found the extreme conditions very difficult. It was possibly commitment in the rutted roads which they struggled with most.

Overall Classification

1. Nil Solans / Miguel Ibanez, 3h 17m 47.0s
2. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson, 3h 18m 02.4s
3. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye, 3h 20m 28.8s
4. Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu, 3h 21m 39.4s
5. Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl, 3h 24m 04.8s
6. Dillon Van Way / Dai Roberts, 3h 28m 24.9s
7. Sebastian Careaga / Rodrigo Sanjuan, 3h 40m 57.7s
8. Emil Lindholm / Tomi Tuominen, 3h 46m 30.4s

Championship Points after round 3

1. Nil Solans / Miguel Ibanez 96
2. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye 57
3. Terry Folb / Christopher Guieu 50
4. Dennis Rådström / Johan Johansson 45
5. Julius Tannert / Jurgen Heigl 37
6. Robert Duggan / Tom Woodburn 20
7. Dillon Van Way / Dai Roberts 18
8. Sebastian Careaga / Rodrigo Sanjuan 16
9. Emil Lindholm / Tomi Tuominen 5
10. Miko Niinemäe / Martin Valter 2
11. William Wagner / Kevin Parent 0