Mikkelsen heads tight WRC in Germany
Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen has team-mate and world champion Sebastien Ogier breathing down his neck and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville within striking distance at the conclusion of the opening day of Rallye Deutschland.
The first all-tarmac event of this year’s World Rally Championship chase, the Norwegian took the lead on the opening morning’s second stage and guided his Polo R WRC to a 4.3s lead over Ogier after five tests in the vineyards around the host city of Trier.
With nine stages to come on day two; including the notoriously tricky Panzerplatte tests, Mikkelsen was prepared for a fierce battle with the reigning world champion.
“We’re definitely in a fight and to wake up tomorrow in a fighting mood makes you take those last risks and keep the throttle down in many situations, whereas when you’re not in a proper fight, you maybe lift off. That should help us tomorrow,” said Mikkelsen.
“But we have a big challenge in front of us tomorrow. Obviously we are moving into the military stages and when you look at Seb’s times in there for the last couple of years he’s winning those stages year after year. If he pulls a lot of dirt onto the road that could make things tricky,” he told WRC.com.
Unlike the gravel events in the WRC where running first on the road is a disadvantage, Ogier was in a far more even fight in Germany. However, the Frenchman who spent the day trying to claw back time he lost when he overshot a junction and surrendered the rally lead.
He put himself in striking distance of Mikkelsen by topping the time sheets on the day’s two final stages. That allowed him to edge past Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 WRC for second spot.
Neuville had battled with car balance issues in the morning, but some changes at service improved his feeling and he was pleased to be only 5.9s off the rally lead with 13 stages remaining.
On a good day for Hyundai Dani Sordo is sitting only 6.8s behind in third and just 12.7s off the rally lead.
Ott Tanak was next up in fifth place, while Stephane Lefebvre ended the day 11.2s behind in his privately-entered DS 3 WRC.
Mads Ostberg struggled to find the pace he wanted in his M-Sport World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC and ended the day in seventh place, 1m 32s shy of the rally-leading pace.
Kiwi Hayden Paddon completed the list of World Rally Car finishers on day one. The Kiwi, who only has limited asphalt experience, was eighth and 1m 45s off the lead.
“It’s been one of those days and we’ve certainly been learning the hard way! We had an eventful morning loop,”said Paddon.
“The conditions were tricky, mainly dry but there was a lot of mud in the cuts. We had a big spin in the vineyards and lost 20 seconds. Then, in the following stage, we hit a drain on the rear-left, which added to the time loss. We made it to lunchtime service relatively intact but had more drama in the afternoon. The repeat of Mittelmosel we had a big moment heading downhill fast in sixth when we went off. We were fortunate to get away with it, really.
“I’m hoping for less drama tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
Two manufacturer cars that didn’t complete the competitive 98.97km distance on day one were Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala and M-Sport’s Eric Camilli. Latvala retired on the first stage with a gearbox problem while Camilli spun his Fiesta and got stuck off the road.
POSITIONS: Leg 1 – Rallye Deutschland
|1||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Motorsport II||Volkswagen||59:42.6|
|2||Sebastien Ogier||Volkswagen Motorsport||Volkswagen||+0:04.3|
|3||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||+0:05.9|
|4||Dani Sordo||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||+0:12.7|
|5||Ott Tanak||DMACK World Rally Team||Ford||+0:55.4|
|7||Mads Ostberg||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||+1:32.4|
|8||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai||+1:45.0|
|9||Armin Kremer||BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team||Skoda||+3:03.1|
|10||Pontus Tidemand||Skoda Motorsport II||Skoda||+3:29.8|
VIDEO: Morning Stages
VIDEO: Afternoon Stages