Apart from the final 200 metres, this stage follows the same route as 2012. It starts on a country road but quickly enters the vineyards for the first time in the rally. There are many hairpins and tight junctions among the grapes, with tree stumps on the inside to stop cutting. At 16.5 km the road opens, becoming faster and more flowing.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Ogier’s hopes of clinching his maiden world championship title at ADAC Rallye Deutschland ended in today’s opening stage when he went off the road and damaged his Volkswagen Polo R’s front left suspension.
The Frenchman limped for more than 18km to the finish, stopping to allow team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to pass him, and dropped 2min 30sec.
“I missed the braking point,” admitted the overnight leader. “I didn’t have it in my notes. I went into the vineyard a bit and hit something and damaged the front.”
Asked whether he could continue, Ogier grimaced before leaving the finish to assess the damage.
Thierry Neuville was fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS, 1.2sec ahead of Latvala’s Polo R. However, Latvala leads the Belgian by 5.8sec at the top of the leaderboard.
“I saw the lines on the road but I didn’t have the information until the end of the stage. I didn’t know whether it was a zero car that had gone off or someone with a puncture,” Neuville said. “I feel quite comfortable but now I must go for it, I think.”
Dani Sordo was third in a Citroen DS3, 1.8sec behind Neuville, and the Spaniard is up to third and promising to attack. “We’re here for the fight. The road is a bit dirty, but it’s OK,” he told WRC Live.
An upbeat Mikko Hirvonen was fourth in another DS3 and there was a big gap before Mads Ostberg in fifth, the Norwegian breaking the rear left wheel on his Fiesta RS 5km after the start.
“There was a lot of mud in a junction. I went wide and hit something with the outside. The car felt quite OK but the vibration was bad. It was a heavy vibration, but nothing was damaged,” said Ostberg.
WRC 2 runner Hayden Paddon was an amazing sixth in his Skoda Fabia S2000.
Despite a rain shower this morning, the roads were 95 per cent dry and hard compound Michelin tyres were the choice of most. However, Martin Prokop opted for soft compound rubber on his Fiesta RS and regretted his choice. He overshot a junction to add to his woes.
Khalid Al Qassimi broke a rear left wheel on his DS 3 after hitting a kerb while Michal Kosciuszko hurt his back at a heavy compression. After retiring yesterday when the water temperature on his Fiesta RS soared, P-G Andersson stopped again early in the test.