What a rally that this weekend's Rally Poland proved to be - right up to the last stage. But to come away with third, our third podium of the year is a big relief and confidence booster. This result also lifts us back to third in the WRC points standings.
After recent events, it was important to have a clean event and get some rally time in the car. Naturally we enjoyed the fast nature of these stages and the first two days, which were held in hot dry conditions. Despite the repeat stages getting quite rough, we were able to win three stages and keep within the fight at the front, which was all very close. Even though it was so close, the target was never to push for a result - we were focused on our own rally and getting to the finish.
The expected rain for the final day, certainly added an extra twist to the rally. Here in Poland when it rains, the roads turn to ice in places but they also cut up and become a lot rougher. The target today was to hold our third position, and after the first two stages we were able to extend our gap to our team mate who was fourth, to 20 seconds. The repeat run, conditions however were some of the worse seen in recent WRC times with very changeable grip levels - some places where you simply were not in control of the car. With 20 seconds in hand and knowing in these conditions just how easy it was to make a mistake, we took it easy to ensure a finish. We simply could not afford to make another mistake. However we nearly relaxed a little too much, and only held onto our podium position by 0.8 seconds. But regardless of the margin, third is third, which we are very happy with!
This result definitely feels like it releases the pressure and we can get back on with things. It's just what we needed heading to our favourite event next - Rally Finland. It's also pleasing to know we were competitive this weekend despite not being at my best with the driving, and some small strategy mistakes. This is positive as it gives us more scope for improvements and to be even faster. It's also interesting to notice that the three events this year where we have not had problems (Sweden, Argentina, Poland) we have been on the podium. So the consistency is building, which along with a bit more speed is the perfect recipe for where we want to be come the start of 2017.
A huge thanks to everyone for your support, John who did a great job on the notes, Katie for keeping you all up to date and Ole-Martin who worked with me a lot prior to this event to help us get back on track. Also a huge thanks to our team, engineers, mechanics and everyone at Hyundai. The last two months have not been easy, but at no point did anyone put any additional pressure on me and continued supporting and helping us through the small dip. Now its only upwards as we will work hard to keep the momentum going.
A lot of drama unfolded on today's final four stages, and it was very sad to see Ott Tanak denied his first victory by a puncture. Ott and I were team mates in 2010 and he is an exceptional driver who I know will get his first win soon. He will certainly be a tough competitor in Finland.
On another note, a huge congratulations to David Holder and Jason Farmer, over the weekend winning the New Zealand Rally Championship. Tony Gosling and I started working with Dave four years ago and we never doubted his ability and it is great to see his hard work rewarded.
As of now, the work begins for Finland! Can't wait.