Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville secured his place in the three-way battle for second at ADAC Rallye Deutschland after moving into third position on Sunday morning's final stage.
Stage info: SS16
Sauertal ran in the same format as 2015. It started among the fields on a narrow road before joining wider asphalt and dropping into Trierweiler village. After leaving the village it sped up and alternated between narrow and wide roads to the finish, via many junctions. An ultra-fast 2km section provided the finale.
The Belgian followed his team-mate Dani Sordo’s lead in knocking Andreas Mikkelsen’s VW Polo down another place on the leaderboard after setting the fastest time in the 14.84km Sauertal test.
That meant as the rally edged towards its conclusion, Neuville was only 2.7s behind Sordo who was determined to hold on to his second place, while Mikkelsen was just 1.4s further behind.
“I did a good stage and was pushing quite a lot,” Neuville confirmed. “I could have been more on it in some places but I didn’t feel 100% grip and the car was moving quite a lot. But I’m obviously happy with my time.”
Mikkelsen’s lack of pace on Sunday morning was a mystery, particularly as he’d been the fastest driver in the field and led the rally on the first day. But he was adamant he was doing everything he could to move back up the order and onto the final podium.
He said: “I’m really on the limit everywhere. I think carrying two spare wheels (compared to the one that Neuville and Sordo opted to carry) is holding us back a bit, plus the Hyundai guys are driving really quick. It’s not easy but I’m trying as hard as I can.”
Unfortunately for the Norwegian, he lost an opportunity to strike back at his rivals ahead when the penultimate stage of the day at Dhrontal was cancelled on Sunday morning due to spectators being in a restricted zone.
With Sébastien Ogier enjoying a 20.3s advantage at the head of the field, the fierce battle for runner up spot would therefore go down to the rally-ending Power Stage at Sauertal, where extra championship points were also up for grabs.