Ott Tanak has extended his lead at Rallye Deutschland as championship leader Thierry Neuville crashed out on one of the tough tarmac tests.
The Ford driver headed Andreas Mikkelsen (Citroen) by 21.4sec following the penultimate leg of the four-day asphalt encounter, after a day on the Panzerplatte’s multi-surface tank training roads and greasy country lanes.
The day was a disaster for Neuville who retired his Hyundai i20 with broken rear suspension after the opening military road special stage.
His demise handed a crucial advantage to joint championship points leader Sebastien Ogier who is just 8.2-sec back in third.
After a wet Friday, most drivers chose soft compound tyres this morning expecting damp roads. They were drier than forecast and an over-cautious approach from Mikkelsen allowed Tanak to pull clear.
An error-strewn stage from Mikkelsen when he first spun and then stalled his C3’s engine within 200 metres, gave Tanak more daylight and the Estonian managed his advantage this afternoon.
“It’s been another good day for us,” said Tanak.
“We’ve been very consistent and set competitive times on every stage which is obviously a big positive for us. I feel as though we’ve made another big step forward this weekend.
“Obviously Andreas made a few small mistakes so the gap is a bit bigger going into tomorrow, but there are still 50 tricky kilometres to go. We have to continue with the same rhythm and see what happens. In Germany, it’s never over until it’s over.”
Juho Hanninen made a perfect tyre choice in the morning to overhaul fourth-placed Elfyn Evans in his Toyota Yaris. However, a broken damper slowed the Finn and the Welshman regained the place by 4.2sec.
Craig Breen slithered his C3 into a field on three occasions but the Irishman was sixth ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala’s Yaris. The Finn dropped two minutes after stopping to change a puncture but held a comfortable advantage over Hayden Paddon’s i20.
“Our day didn’t start in the best manner with another puncture in the first run through Panzerplatte,” said Paddon.
“Overall our speed today has been better with some top-three stage times in the morning loop. Conditions, generally, were easier which afforded me more confidence, especially with our better road position.
“In the afternoon, conditions in the second run through Panzerplatte were some of the best I’ve ever driven, and it was pretty enjoyable.
“We are still here, holding eighth place, and will do all we can on the final day to secure as many points as we can for the team.”
WRC 2 leader Eric Camilli and local hero Armin Kremer completed the top 10.
Dani Sordo rejoined after yesterday’s retirement and completed a clean sweep of three stage wins in Panzerplatte this afternoon in his i20. Kris Meeke retired his C3 with a suspected broken water pump.
Sunday is the shortest of the rally with two identical loops of two stages covering 51.94km. The final St Wendeler Land test forms the live TV Power Stage, with bonus points for the fastest five drivers.
VIDEO: Morning Stages
VIDEO: Afternoon Stages
POSITIONS : Day Two – Rallye Deutschland
|1||O. Tanak||Ford Fiesta WRC||2:31:32.2|
|2||A. Mikkelsen||Citroen C3 WRC||+0:21.4|
|3||S. Ogier||Ford Fiesta WRC||+0:29.6|
|4||E. Evans||Ford Fiesta WRC||+1:48.3|
|5||J. Hanninen||Toyota Yaris WRC||+1:52.5|
|6||C. Breen||Citroen C3 WRC||+2:06.7|
|7||J.M. Latvala||Toyota Yaris WRC||+4:04.9|
|8||H. Paddon||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||+4:31.3|