Stage data: SS3, Grafschaft 1 (22.79 kilometres)
By Volkswagen Motorsport co-driver Julien Ingrassia: “This stage is a little bit more of a mixed stage. You will find some vineyards but it’s a little more cross-country with some open areas where you can breathe a little bit with 200-metre straights with nothing around. There are some farms in the stage and you have to be careful about the mud that can be pulled onto the road by the trucks.”
How the action unfolded:
While Sebastien Loeb completed a clean sweep of fastest times on the opening morning of ADAC Rallye Deutschland, the battle for second place closed up as Jari-Matti Latvala pulled away from the rest of the pack and gained on his Ford team-mate Petter Solberg.
The gap between the two Fords is now down to 5.7 seconds after Latvala went second quickest behind Loeb on the Grafschaft stage.
Latvala felt that was the best he could do for now before switching at service to the harder set-up he feels would make his car more competitive.
"We improved the car a little bit but now it's important to get to service and get the correct set-up and increase the confidence," said Latvala.
Solberg rued an ongoing issue that costing him pace.
"I had a small problem at the start and it got worse and worse through the stages, the same as the other stages," he said. "It's not a bad day so far. We have to try and improve a little bit."
Loeb's overall lead now stands at 13.1s over Solberg. The world champion has set the pace on all three stages so far.
"This one was more difficult for me," said Loeb after stage three. "There were a lot of long straights with big braking. But for the moment, no problems. There's a long way to go."
The pack behind Latvala opened out a little as Mikko Hirvonen continued to struggle for confidence in fifth place, and Thierry Neuville was one of several drivers who slowed to check on Martin Prokop, whose Ford caught fire in the stage. The crew got out safely. Neuville also dropped time with a gearshift issue and an overshoot, so is now 6.7s behind Latvala in fourth.
Ott Tanak also paused for Prokop's incident and also took an off-course detour, resulting in him losing sixth place to Dani Sordo's MINI. The stage appears to have now been stopped so that Prokop's fire can be attended to.