Jari-Matti Latvala holds a healthy lead at Rallye Deutschland after his Volkswagen team-mate and World Champion Sebastien Ogier crashed on the final stage of the day.
The VW pair were the class of the field on the asphalt roads in the Mosel region on the opening day. Ogier was 5.5-sec in front of Latvala heading into the day’s final stage ‘Moselland’.
The championship leader crashed 7.5km into the test with his car going off into the vines. He was unable to re-join the stage, but however continued down the hillside onto another road. After finding a public road he drove straight back to the Trier service park. He officially failed to finish the leg and will take a 10-minute penalty ahead of tomorrow’s stages.
“It was not a big mistake – just a little too late and a little too wide but the road narrowed and I went off,” said Ogier.
“I have to be happy that the consequences were not worse and the car was not damaged. We slid down a very steep slope and luckily the car didn’t roll. If it did, it could have been quite bad. Okay, we lost the race, but nothing more.”
Latvala finished the day 37 second ahead of the Citroen of Kris Meeke’s Citroen DS3. Last year’s winner, Dani Sordo, holds third in a Hyundai i20, a further 5.6sec behind.
“We got a message in the car that Ogier had stopped and then saw another message to say he was out,” said Latvala.
“I lost my rhythm a little because I didn’t know whether to drive fast or slow down. Miikka (co-driver Anttila) told me I was in the lead and could back off, but I slowed too much and found it hard to concentrate.”
Andreas Mikkelsen is 3.0sec behind Sordo in fourth in a Polo R, despite a morning puncture, with Thierry Neuville fifth. Mechanics worked all last night to repair the Belgian’s i20 after his shakedown roll but he had a scare when his car filled with smoke in the last test.
Mikko Hirvonen is just 1.9sec behind in sixth, despite overshooting his Ford Fiesta RS into a field in the opening stage. Team-mate Elfyn Evans and Mads Østberg are next, the Norwegian slipping back from third as he struggled on the dirty roads.
Bryan Bouffier and Martin Prokop complete the leaderboard, but Robert Kubica dropped four minutes after his Fiesta RS went off and had to be lifted back onto the road by spectators.
Australia’s Adrian Coppin is competing in his first WRC event in Germany and sits 56th outright in a Citroen DS3 R3T. His day included an excursion through the vineyards.
“We smashed the windscreen going through the vineyards, I think we smashed enough grapes to make our own box of wine,” said Coppin.
“But overall a really good day, I learnt lots, and working with Dale (Moscatt) for the first time has been terrific. Really looking forward to Day Two!”
Tomorrow drivers face two loops of four stages covering 148.30km, including two passes over the daunting Panzerplatte tests in the Baumholder military area.
VIDEO: Morning stages
VIDEO: Afternoon stages
POSITIONS: Day – Rallye Deutschland
|6||Mikko Hirvonen||M-Sport Ford||+55.0s|
|7||Elfyn Evans||M-Sport Ford||+1m00.2s|
|10||Martin Prokop||Czech Ford||+2m07.1s|