The Portuguese was fastest on four of today’s eight stages and starts Sunday’s final leg with a 23.8s lead over New Zealander Hayden Paddon.
However, it wasn’t an entirely trouble-free day for Araujo. He lost 10 seconds overshooting a junction on Saturday’s opener before spinning on a long left corner on stage 10.
Although he was fastest through stage 11, he noticed a front-right puncture on the road section heading to stage 12 and had to stop to change it. With only one spare on board his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, Araujo had to adopt a cautious approach through stages 12 and 13, which enabled Paddon to slash his advantage to 15 seconds.
But Araujo regained his composure on the second Panzerplatte stage and was 8.8s quicker than Paddon. “Okay we are in the lead but that can easily change if we have a small problem so I have to stay concentrated and not make any mistakes,” said Araujo.
“Today has been good, the car has been perfect with no problems so I am happy but tomorrow is another long day and it’s never easy.”
Apart from a bout of understeer in his Lancer on Saturday morning, little troubled Paddon for the remainder of the day, which he said had exceeded his expectations.
“It’s gone better than expected, that’s for sure,” said the Pirelli Star Driver.
“Unfortunately Armindo has just been that bit faster than me. But I’ve got to be pleased because he’s got a lot of experience on Tarmac whereas I’ve got hardly any at all.”
Patrik Flodin, who is almost 1m30s off Araujo, complained that his Subaru Impreza’s engine had been overheating on Saturday afternoon. In contrast, German wildcard Hermann Gassner Jr said his Mitsubishi had performed without fault although a spin on stage eight cost him 20 seconds.
Intent on reaching the finish, Gassner Jr adopted a risk-free strategy for the remainder of the day, which he completed in fourth overall.
Alex Raschi is fifth with Pirelli Star Driver Ott Tanak sixth following his return to action under SupeRally regulations on Saturday morning after he broke his car’s suspension striking a kerb on Friday.
Reijo Muhonen is seventh with Toshi Arai the only other PWRC competitor to go the distance in eighth.
Suspected transmission problems halted Nick Georgiou, while a lost fire extinguisher pin forced Peter Horsey to retire on the road section heading to stage 13. Michel Jourdain also retired when his Lancer, which he was using in competition for the first time, was destroyed by fire on the first Panzeplatte stage.
Follow this link to see the Rally Deutschland P-WRC stage times.
“Okay we are in the lead but that can easily change if we have a small problem so I have to stay concentrated and not make any mistakes.”