Local hero Armin Kremer led the WRC 2 category from start to finish on the first day at ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Driving a Skoda R5, the 47-year-old topped the time sheets on only one of the day’s five stages, but his ability to stay out of serious trouble – while others around him tripped up – earned him a commanding lead.
Despite a brief panic on the penultimate stage of the day when his car’s engine didn’t rev to the limiter, Kremer ended the day 28.4s faster than Esapekka Lappi’s Skoda.
“At the moment we are happy but it’s a long day tomorrow, especially with the two 40km stages at Panzerplatte,” he said. “Tomorrow we must go maximum attack.”
Lappi was aiming to follow up his rally-winning performance in Finland last month by taking another maximum WRC 2 points haul away from Germany. But three spins in the morning’s opening two stages put paid to his chances of eclipsing Kremer’s pace.
“This afternoon has been better with no mistakes and me driving better all the time,” he said. “The target was to finish today. Tomorrow’s a new day but it’s going to be tough.”
Ghislain De Mevius completed a WRC 2 top-three that was filled by Skoda R5 machinery. The Belgian found some good speed on the opening day and was able to capitalise on others’ misfortune when it mattered. He ended the day 1m 08.7s off the lead.
Two drivers that looked like serious challengers early in the rally as they held second place were Jan Kopecky and Jose Suarez. However, both men dropped out of the top places when they hit trouble.
Skoda Motorsport’s Kopecky was second after SS1 but a puncture on SS2 dropped him down to eighth place. He eventually recovered to finish the day in fifth, only 5.2s behind Pierre-Louis Loubet.
Suarez meanwhile, held second heading into the penultimate stage of the day but his Peugeot 208 T16 R5 also picked up a puncture and he dropped to seventh, almost 30s behind Bernhard Ten Brinke’s Skoda.
Mark van Eldik, Frigyes Turan and Edwin Schilt completed the WRC 2 top ten.