The afternoon’s opening stage, a repeat of the short Chmielewo test, was cancelled on safety grounds due to the sheer number of fans lining the roads.
When the action did resume in Wieliczki, Ford Fiesta driver Tänak was fastest of the quartet fighting for the lead and cut Latvala’s advantage to 2.3sec.
Although the rain had stopped, deep mud and ruts filled with standing water made driving even tougher than it was earlier. “Horrendous,” said Latvala. “Undriveable,” added Sébastien Ogier. “Crazy,” responded Tänak.
“It’s difficult to understand what is happening because it’s so slippery and rutted. It’s survival at the moment,” added Tänak, who was third quickest.
Tänak’s charge demoted Thierry Neuville to third. The Belgian was eighth fastest in his Hyundai i20 and said: “I tried to go out of the ruts but the road is gone. There’s no line and we’re clearing the road, it will be hard to hold off the guys starting behind us.”
Ogier was 16.3sec off the pace in his Fiesta, and the Frenchman slipped almost 20sec behind Latvala.
Pride of place at the top of the times went to Teemu Suninen. The Finn won his first WRC stage by 0.7sec from Haydon Paddon, less than 24 hours after driving a World Rally Car in earnest for the first time.
Craig Breen incurred a 70sec penalty after leaving mid-leg service seven minutes late following his Citroën C3’s transmission problems. He made set-up changes and planned more ahead of today’s final three stages.
The last word goes to seventh fastest Juho Hänninen. “Only God knows where the car is going in this mud!” said the Finn.