Reigning world champion Sébastien Ogier edged championship leader Ott Tänak to win a sun-kissed shakedown at ADAC Rallye Deutschland on Thursday morning.
Ogier, driving a Citroën C3, pipped the Estonian by a tenth of a second through the 5.20km St Wendeler Land speed test. Team-mate Esapekka Lappi tied with Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville for third, a further two-tenths behind.
Glorious weather ensured the country lanes were bone dry and Tänak was quickly into the groove to go fastest through the opening run in his Toyota Yaris. Ogier moved to the top of the rankings by a tenth as both drivers upped their pace in the second pass.
Tänak looked to have secured top billing with a time 0.5sec clear of Ogier in his third and final run before the Frenchman snatched it away in an additional fourth pass.
Tänak, who holds a 22-point championship lead over Ogier, was happy to have the opportunity to reacclimatise to sealed surface roads.
“Last time we drove on asphalt was a long time ago, the Germany pre-event test which was more than a month ago,” he told wrc.com.
“Everything was working from the beginning. We just made some very small adjustments in the suspension to get the feeling right, but generally it was about getting the feeling back in the car on Tarmac.
“Tomorrow morning we will have a little advantage by clean roads so hopefully we can make the best out of it. We need to push hard from the beginning because the gaps here are always really small. We need to find the limit quickly.”
He pointed to Saturday afternoon’s daunting Panzerplatte military road stages, which are driven in the opposite direction to usual, as potentially the key to the four-day event.
“It’s a bit more challenging as we have quite a lot of new pace notes. It looks to be tricky as the road is not in a good shape, it’s quite rough with a lot of loose stones and rocks on the top so the first priority is to avoid punctures,” he added.
Teemu Suninen steered his Ford Fiesta to fifth fastest, 0.9sec off the pace, with Dani Sordo sixth, another tenth behind.
The leading times were:
|1.||Sébastien Ogier||Citroën C3||2min 39.7sec|
|2.||Ott Tänak||Toyota Yaris||+0.1sec|
|3=||Esapekka Lappi Lappi||Citroën C3||+0.3sec|
|3=||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai i20||+0.3sec|
|5.||Teemu Suninen||Ford Fiesta||+0.9sec|
|6.||Dani Sordo||Hyundai i20||+1.0sec|
|7.||Kris Meeke||Toyota Yaris||+1.2sec|
|8.||Andreas Mikkelsen||Hyundai i20||+1,5sec|
|9.||Jari-Matti Latvala||Toyota Yaris||+1,6sec|
|10.||Gus Greensmith||Ford Fiesta||+3,0sec|