Sébastien Ogier took the lead of ADAC Rallye Deutschland on Saturday morning after a storming drive through the 40km Panzerplatte Lang stage.
Stage info: SS10
The longest stage of the rally and one of the toughest of the season with 96 junctions packed into less than 41km. The surface changed constantly and many roads were lined with hinkelsteins, massive concrete kerbs designed to keep tanks on the military tracks. It had everything – wide, narrow and mid-sized roads and surfaces ranking from smooth asphalt to cobbles. Slippery sand coats the surface in the dry while in the wet conditions can be treacherous.
The reigning world champion went into day two hunting down his rally-leading team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen. The duo traded seconds on the opening four stages of the day and the lead changed hands twice as both men battled to get the best out of their different tyre choices in changeable road conditions.
But Ogier’s pre-rally prediction that the gruelling Panzerplatte stages in the Baumholder military proving ground would be key to deciding the result of the rally proved to be accurate.
The Frenchman used his VW Polo R WRC to put in a stunning performance on the 40km test and his time was 13.5s faster than the one Mikkelsen posted. That handed Ogier a 13.2s advantage at the top of the leaderboard.
“I think it was hard for the brain this morning because we had changeable conditions all the time and it was very difficult to make the best tyre choice,” he explained.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t make it. It was more wet than expected on the first two stages this morning and we only had two soft tyres. It was the opposite situation in Baumholder; the rain we expected didn’t come and we had two soft tyres again.
“But we did a good job with Julien (Ingrassia) and managed to be very fast with the tyres we had on the car. I’m happy to be in the lead.”
Mikkelsen was wary of Ogier’s impressive record in Baumholder when he talked to wrc.com on Friday night. But he was philosophical in defeat and remained determined to fight to regain his place at the head of the field.
He said: “It was all about the tyre choice for the long stage and I missed it a bit. I went for a cross (soft and hard tyres diagonally opposed to each other) but I didn’t have a good feeling at all with the tyres. I was understeering on one corner and oversteering on the next.
“But that’s life. We now have to push very, very hard this afternoon. If we have a good tyre choice, we will give it everything.”
Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville completed the top three at the close of Saturday morning’s competitive action after successfully holding off a fierce attack from his team-mate Dani Sordo.
Only seven crews made it through the Panzerplatte Lang stage on Saturday morning. The stage was stopped when Stéphane Lefebvre crashed his privately-entered DS 3 WRC.