Andreas Mikkelsen successfully defended his ADAC Rallye Deutschland lead after the second loop of stages on Friday afternoon.
Stage info: SS3
After an initial section among the grapes above the Mosel river, the stage crossed 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 switched to new roads which are more flowing and with fewer hairpins than the opening section.
The Volkswagen Polo R driver leapt into a narrow lead on Friday morning but with the first loop of stages repeated again in the afternoon, the Norwegian needed to be on his best form to hold station.
A fastest time in SS3 was followed by a slightly slower time in SS4, but Mikkelsen’s speed was good enough to fend off a determined attack from Thierry Neuville just behind. He ended the loop 2.9s faster than his Belgian rival.
“On the first stage this afternoon I tried to be just under the limit and I managed it all the way through,” Mikkelsen said. “On the next stage I had to be very patient with the set up I have. Many times I wanted to go on the throttle but I had understeer.”
Neuville, who improved the set up and handling of his Hyundai i20 WRC at midday service, would probably have overtaken Mikkelsen at the top of the standings had it not been for a mistake at one of the tight hairpins on SS4.
He estimated he lost around 5s and with the gap to Mikkelsen standing at 2.9s at the end of the loop, it was a missed opportunity.
Stage info: SS4
The stage is familiar, but driven in the opposite direction to last year. It’s a typical German vineyard test, zig-zagging up and down the hillsides with short stretches of main road to link the narrow service tracks. There is more space on the edges of the roads and that allowed plenty of opportunities for cutting.
“At a tight hairpin right, the handbrake turn was nice but I took a wheel up on the inside of the corner and spun,” he explained. “It was very frustrating.”
Sébastien Ogier enjoyed a trouble-free second loop of stages as his policy to avoid taking risks paid dividends. He was, after all, looking to claw back the time he gave away in the morning when he overshot a hairpin and lost the rally lead.
“I’m driving very clean – no moments,” the Frenchman said. “There are no full risks and I try to drive as fast as I can. But it looks like Andreas is driving quicker than we are.”
Ogier found himself 4.7s shy of his team-mate’s pace after SS4, but with only 1.8s separating him and Neuville just in front, there was all to play for.
Dani Sordo, Ott Tänak, Stéphane Lefebvre and Mads Østberg all held on to the positions they earned during the morning loop of stages, while Hayden Paddon completed the list of World Rally Car runners that were still standing as he completed the afternoon in eighth place.
The Hyundai driver was lucky to get to the end of the second loop, however, after suffering what he described as a “very big moment” on the second run through the Mittelmosel test (see below).
“I was really lucky to get away with it,” he said. “It was a fast left-hand corner in sixth gear. We went on the grass and then went 45 degrees this way and then that way. It was the biggest moment I’ve had. We’re lucky to be here.”
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