The Frenchman led Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 5.7sec overnight. However, he went off the road under braking in today’s opening 22.95km Mittelmosel vineyard stage, breaking the front left suspension on his Polo R.
Rain fell this morning but the roads had dried sufficiently to encourage most top drivers to opt for hard compound tyres. But Ogier, who was first to tackle the stage, was caught out.
“We were surprised by a slippery place under braking,” he admitted. “Some humidity was left on the braking point and we didn’t have it in the pace notes. I came a bit too fast for the conditions and went straight into the ditch where there was a small step that damaged the suspension.”
Ogier lost 2min 30sec limping to the finish and afterwards he and co-driver Julien Ingrassia tried to fix the suspension using ratchet straps. But the damage was too great and they stopped after 17km of the next stage.
“It was quite hard to drive the car and a bit risky. The wheel was moving a lot and finally it broke completely,” Ogier told wrc.com.
Ogier has a new gravel crew for this rally, former WRC driver Simon Jean-Joseph and Benjamin Veillas. They drove the stage earlier this morning to provide pace note updates, but Ogier refused to blame anyone but himself for the crash.
“It wasn’t the problem of Julien. He did his job. Maybe something with our gravel crew. It was the first time we worked with them but I don’t complain about what they did. It’s always difficult to estimate the conditions when it’s wet and getting dry progressively.
“There is a gap between the time they do the stage and I drive it, so I don’t complain at anyone. I’m driving the car and responsible for the mistake. It was a tricky place,” added Ogier.