Citroen fare no better without Meeke as stars struggle in mud
If Citroen were hoping for a fresh start in Rally Poland, it hasn't happened so far.
With Kris Meeke left out for this round of the World Championship, the French team fared no better, his replacement Andreas Mikkelsen down in 12th place at the end of the first leg last night and almost three minutes off the pace of the leader, Hyundai's Thierry Neuville.
Despite winning Rally Mexico, the Ulster driver was stood down after a series of crashes in Argentina, Portugal and Sardinia, but Mikkelsen suffered a Meeke-type incident yesterday, the back of the car stepping out, clipping a tree and breaking a rear driveshaft.
The Norwegian, who won in Poland last year driving for Volkswagen, was fortunate the accident happened on the last stage before the mid-day break and he was able to bring the car back to service for repairs.
But even though Mikkelsen's C3 was fitted with newly homologated differential parts to try to cure its unpredictable behaviour, the best he could manage in the afternoon was a fourth fastest time.
Craig Breen had an even more disastrous first morning, his Citroen breaking a driveshaft on the first stage of the day, leaving the Irishman to complete four more stages with just two-wheel-drive. Repairs overran the allotted service time and he picked up a further 70 seconds in penalties, leaving him back in 21st place, nine minutes behind Neuville.
Stephane Lefebvre was the leading Citroen driver, the young Frenchman in ninth place.
At the front, Neuville edged ahead of the Ford Fiesta of Ott Tanak with Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala in third place. The Finn had led for much of the morning but struggled in the muddy, rutted roads in the afternoon.
However, just five seconds covered the top three, with World champion Sebastien Ogier in fourth but half a minute back from the leaders. The Hyundais of Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo completed the top six.