Sébastien Ogier drew first blood in the race for victory at ADAC Rallye Deutschland – but VW’s happiness was tempered by a disastrous early retirement for Jari-Matti Latvala.
Stage info: SS1
After an initial section among the grapes above the Mosel river, the stage crosses open fields before entering the vines again, dropping downhill through a sequence of hairpin bends. The sections between the bends are very fast with plenty of opportunities for cutting. After 13.10km the stage switches to new roads which are more flowing and with fewer hairpins than the opening section.
The reigning world champion was keen to make a positive start to the first all-asphalt round of the season after failing to score any points at Neste Rally Finland last month.
And he showed the rest of the field he meant business as he went 1.9s faster than team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen in Mittelmosel 1.
“For sure, there were some tricky sections,” Ogier said. “I was a bit careful for the first stage – it was not so easy to find a good rhythm.”
Mikkelsen’s start was good but it could have been even better if he hadn’t made a small mistake in the stage. “I hit a bank a little and there was a vibration after that,” the Norwegian explained. “But everything is good for me.”
Latvala’s charge didn’t make it past the 13.7km marker. The VW team reported that the Finn’s Polo R had suffered a gearbox problem and there was no alternative other than to retire. He was expected to restart on Saturday under Rally2.
Next up in the standings were a brace of Hyundai i20 WRCs. Thierry Neuville was third fastest, only 5.5s off Ogier’s benchmark pace, while team-mate Dani Sordo was just behind a further 6.7s down.
Neuville hadn’t enjoyed the Mittelmosel 1 test and was pleased to see his time was as strong as it was. He said: “That was horrible – undriveable. I didn’t feel comfortable at all. I was struggling like hell, no confidence at all.”
The Belgian felt his uncomfortable feeling was largely down to the slippery conditions on the mud-strewn road but also said that he needed to work on the set up of his car to discover a better feeling and more performance.
Dmack World Rally Team driver Ott Tänak was fifth fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, while Mads Østberg was 7.2s further behind in his M-Sport-prepared machine.
Østberg’s French team-mate, Eric Camilli, failed to make it through the first ADAC Rallye Deutschland stage after he went off in the closing stages of the 22km test [pictured below].