Jan Kopecky in a Skoda Fabia R5 has the overnight lead at Rallye Deutschland after a fast and clean run on the opening street stage in Saarbrucken.
On the short 2.05km stage it is always said you can’t win the overall rally on a test like this, but you can lose it, as Kris Meeke found out after failing to finish the stage after running into the concrete barriers.
Big crowds gathered in the heart of the city for the rally’s first visit to Saarland’s capital. The Czech asphalt ace was 0.3sec quicker than Ott Tanak’s Ford Fiesta. Craig Breen was a further 1.0sec behind, despite swiping a concrete wall in the opening corner and damaging his C3’s rear left wheel.
Andreas Mikkelsen was fourth in another C3, the Norwegian tied with Sebastien Ogier. They were 0.3sec clear of Jari-Matti Latvala, whose Toyota Yaris completed the top six.
Ogier got the better of title rival Thierry Neuville, who was ninth in his Hyundai i20 and 2.7sec off the lead pace.
Meeke was devastated after hitting a barrier on the inside of a right bend. He tried to limp on but his Citroen C3’s steering was broken and he parked the car shortly afterwards. It exited the test on the back of a tow truck and the Briton will restart tomorrow with a massive 10-minute penalty.
Hayden Paddon, Dani Sordo and local hero Armin Kremer, driving a 2017 Fiesta for the first time, all clouted a barrier but survived unscathed.
Friday’s first full day features the fast, hairpin-strewn vineyards above the Mosel river. A double pass of the familiar Mittelmosel and Grafschaft stages are sandwiched by three runs of a new circuit test at Wadern-Weiskirchen. The seven stages cover 108.51km.
VIDEO: Stage 1 highlights