Rally Poland which takes place from 26th to 29th June 2014 constitutes a completely new challenge for teams and drivers. The rally was last calendared in 2009 and now returns after a five-year break.
The service park is located in the town of Mikolajki, about 200 kilometres north of the capital, Warsaw. From there, drivers embark on 362 timed kilometres, spread over 24 special stages on four days. With the exception of the spectator stage in Mikolajki, the rally has been completely revamped and provides an additional premiere, as special stages will be held in neighbouring Lithuania for the first time on Friday. While Poland and Lithuania share a common border, the two countries are in different time zones, but Polish time will be used for the duration of the entire rally.
The fast, flowing passages of the rally remind you of Rally Finland. However, the stages have far fewer jumps and are located in open country. Tall grass grows everywhere alongside the track, hiding two major obstacles, since the approach to turns is blind to some extent on account of the lush vegetation while large stones lie in wait to catch the unwary who take a shortcut through the corners.
The track base is sandy and very soft, which can lead to a surface that is irregular and prone to breaking up in part after a couple of cars have passed through. Ruts on the second run are another inevitable factor. The weather can be extremely temperamental and complicate matters further, as pouring rain can quickly soften the ground, producing extremely muddy conditions.
The two championship leaders Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala start the rally as favourites. Between them, the Volkswagen drivers have taken all of the wins so far this season. However, Mikko Hirvonen is the last and only remaining Rally Poland winner still in harness; the Ford driver previously won the event in 2009 and will be aiming to achieve another top result on his second attempt. Fellow Ford driver Robert Kubica will receive the greatest support, though. The Polish driver is something of a national hero in his home country, and consequently, up to a million fans are expected to line the route on competition days to cheer on the Ford driver.