SS9/10: Neuville out
Championship leader Thierry Neuville suffered a crushing blow to his title hopes when he retired from the second leg of ADAC Rallye Deutschland on Saturday morning.
Stage info: SS9/10
SS9: Arena Panzerplatte SSS 1, 2.87km
A short stage for the fans and a warm-up for the drivers on the daunting Baumholder military ranges ahead of the monster test to follow. The roads are wide and there is a mixture of surfaces, covering smooth and broken asphalt, cobble stones and bumpy concrete. There are many junctions in a stage which is identical to last year.
SS10: Panzerplatte 1, 41.97km
The longest stage of the rally and one of the toughest of the season with 93 junctions packed into less than 42km. The surface changes constantly and many roads are lined with hinkelsteins, massive concrete kerbs designed to keep tanks on the military tracks. It has everything – wide, narrow and mid-sized roads and surfaces ranking from smooth asphalt to cobbles. Slippery sand coats the surface in the dry while in the wet conditions are treacherous.
He finished the opening Arena Panzerplatte speed test with the rear left wheel hanging off his Hyundai i20 and parked the car shortly afterwards.
Neither Neuville nor co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul had any explanation for the breakage, which left the hub detached from the suspension upright.
“It was just a slow junction, a left turn with a cut and we don’t understand what happened. We felt a small touch on the rear axle. We probably touched something but we don’t understand right now,” said Gilsoul.
“It looks like something broke on the suspension. We need to analyse first and then we will know more. It looks like a catastrophe right now but I’m a positive man and a lot will still happen here in Germany.”
Neuville and Sébastien Ogier are tied at the top of the championship and the Belgian’s early exit gives Ogier, who is now third in the rally, the opportunity to rebuild his points lead.
Leader Ott Tänak was fastest in the test, a curtain-raiser for the mammoth 41.97km stage across the Baumholder tank training area that followed. He was quickest in his Ford Fiesta by 0.4sec from Ogier, with second-placed Andreas Mikkelsen a further 0.2sec back.
The Estonian was third in the long stage, beating Mikkelsen by 9.0sec to extend his advantage to 15.3sec. Conditions were drier than expected as yesterday’s rain gave way to sunshine and both regretted not choosing hard compound tyres all round.
Tänak’s rear left tyre delaminated 6km from the finish and Citroën C3 driver Mikkelsen admitted: “We should have had at least two hard tyres on. I did a clever stage and didn’t push the tyres too much. I was perhaps too cautious even.”
Only Toyota Gazoo Racing pair Juho Hänninen and Esapekka Lappi opted for four hard tyres, and Hänninen capitalised to win the stage by 2.4sec from a careful Ogier.
“A bit too cautious,” Ogier said. “Thierry’s stop made me drive a bit differently, things have changed a bit. But I still want maximum points and the gap in front is too big. I didn’t push enough in this one to catch them."
Hayden Paddon dropped 90sec after changing a rear left puncture in his i20.
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