Elfyn Evans was second in both tests in a Ford Fiesta R5 and the young Welshman has an 8.3sec advantage over Sepp Wiegand’s Skoda Fabia S2000.
“It feels like we’re struggling a bit going uphill,” said Kubica. “Maybe it’s the wide roads because it feels a little slow under acceleration. I have to get used to it because I’m thinking about what it was like in Formula 1.”
Evans had no major issues while Wiegand felt he may have broken a driveshaft or differential in SS2. “There was a strange feeling on the right of the car. When I braked, the car went sideways all the time,” explained the German driver.
Fellow countryman Armin Kremer is fourth in a Ford Fiesta RRC, 39.8sec off the lead, with Subhan Aksa and Hayden Paddon completing the top six.
Paddon dropped 90sec in SS1 after losing the power steering in his Skoda Fabia after just 2km. “It turned out to be the alternator belt,” said the New Zealand driver. “We fitted another after the stage and it was fine. It’s frustrating but in Finland we lost more time than this and got onto the podium.”
Eyvind Brynildsen lies seventh but the Norwegian was visibly shocked after a frightening incident near the finish of SS2.
“I’m so lucky,” he said. “I was flat out on the rev limiter in a downhill section into a junction right when I went to brake and the throttle jammed open. There was no way I could take the bend at that speed and there was a wall in front of me. It was scary.”
He managed to turn the engine off in the nick of time and although his Fiesta R5 hit the wall, the damage wasn’t serious. After resetting the engine, Brynildsen continued with the loss of almost 90sec.
Robert Barrable retired his Fiesta R5 in the opening stage after going off the road. The accident damaged the car’s radiator and Barrable decided to stop rather than risk damaging the engine.
Karl Kruuda stopped after a bizarre incident at the start in Cologne. His Fiesta R5 fell off the podium, breaking a track control arm. The Estonian tried to make repairs but was forced to admit defeat en route to the first stage and retired.