Next weekend the World Rally Championship returns with rally Poland. This years rally is the 71st edition of Rajd Polski, but it's only the third time the rally features in the WRC. The first time was in 1973, the first season of the WRC. The second time was in 2009, which is the rally we're going to take a look at now.
In 2009 Sebastien Loeb had already taken an impressive claim to the title at this point. A horrifying crash in Greece saw Fords number one driver Mikko Hirvonen get back into the title race, with opportunities to take the lead with a good result in this rally. The second driver from Ford, Jari-Matti Latvala, had already shown impressive speed, but wasn't very good at finishing rallies. Citroën had Dani Sordo as the second driver, a driver that had a very good season in 2009 with several podium finishes.
Of course, in 2009 none of the main drivers had been through this rally in a WRC-car before. That meant new pacenotes for everyone, and getting crucial details about the stages would be a critical aspect in the title race. On the first day, Sebastien Loeb hit a treestump partially hidden by gravel, which wasn't included in his pace notes. This treestump destroyed the suspension of the Citroën, and Loeb was out of the race for rally victory.
Meanwhile, the flying Finns from Ford was feeling at home (just listen at the start of the video!). The stages in Poland are fast, flowing and with lots of jumps. Only the softer gravel/clay makes it different from Finland, so they set the pace and ended up as first and second after both day one and day two. Dani Sordo was pushing the two though, and it seemed that Citroëns hope was that Dani could get ahead of at least one of them. Sebastien Loeb was able to restart on day two, but with a twenty minute time penalty. He would be lucky to get into the points.
Or, would he? 2009 was a low point for the WRC, with both Subaru and Suzuki pulling out of the championship. The two remaining manufacturers decided to build on their "junior teams", Stobart Ford and Citroën Junior. That meant that both Citroën and Ford could use more cars to employ tactics during a rally. We'll see how that works out in the video below, where we jump in to the highlights from the decisive third day of the rally.
Other drivers in this rally includes both of the Solberg brothers; Petter as a privateer in a three year old Citroën Xsara and Henning in his Stobart Ford. Sebastien Ogier drove for the Citroën Junior team back then, fighting with the Solbergs all weekend. Andreas Mikkelsen entered this rally in a Skoda Fabia, his only rally in the WRC that season. Mads Østberg drove a privately entered Subaru Impreza, but encountered several mechanical problems. Evgeny Novikov also entered, but with no surprising results. Though Krzysztof Holowczyc isn't the leading Polish rallydriver anymore, he will also enter this year. Sadly, we won't see Petter Solberg or Evgeny Novikov this year. But the enthusiasm of the drivers in this video promises a lot from this rally!