Andreas Mikkelsen became the fourth different leader of ADAC Rallye Deutschland as he headed this 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship into Friday’s mid-leg service.
Stage info: SS4/5
SS4: Grafschaft 1, 18.35km
This is a typical vineyard test, with a high wall on one side of the road, a drop into the grapes on the other and plenty of unseen junctions. However, there is a 3km section early on which crosses open fields. The many junctions mean plenty of dirt will be dragged onto the roads by cars making cuts. Last used in 2015.
SS5: Wadern-Weiskirchen SSS 2, 9.27km
New for 2017, Wadern-Weiskirchen weaves through open fields, with plenty of opportunities for corner cutting. The roads are narrow and it is littered with junctions, but the sections linking them are very quick. It’s a lapping stage and crews tackle the same roads twice before peeling off the ‘circuit’ to the finish. If it’s wet, the junctions will be very muddy.
He charged to the front with a dominant 7.4sec win in the Grafschaft speed test. Fourth in the repeat Wadern-Weiskirchen special stage left the Citroën C3 pilot with a 4.8sec advantage over Ott Tänak.
The Norwegian wasn’t expected to lead. A low start position meant he faced worse conditions than those ahead, who dragged dirt onto the road as they cut muddy corners.
“I’m surprised because when I get to corners there is so much gravel. In the medium and high-speed corners I took a lot of risks and so far it has paid off. Grafschaft isn’t my favourite stage and it wasn’t a perfect drive. It’s good to know that I can go even faster!” he said.
Tyre choice proved complex. Despite forecasts of heavy rain, only intermittent showers fell and the roads dried quickly in between. Most drivers mixed hard and soft compounds and nobody was fully satisfied with their compromise as conditions changed so fast.
Estonian Tänak, who led for a stage after Jan Kopecký and Dani Sordo topped the standings earlier, had a 1.5sec advantage over Ford Fiesta team-mate Sébastien Ogier. The Frenchman set top three times in all three tests after his spin in today’s opener.
Elfyn Evans made steady progress up to fourth in his similar car and trailed Ogier by 9.2sec after capitalising on problems for Sordo and Latvala.
Sordo missed a corner early in Grafschaft and his Hyundai i20 plunged 40 metres into bushes and trees (below). It was relatively undamaged but there was no way back. An engine misfire cost Latvala almost 90sec and he slipped from fifth to 10th in his Toyota Yaris.
Championship leader Thierry Neuville was fastest in Wadern-Weiskirchen to move into fifth after sliding off the road earlier and damaging his i20’s front aero. The Belgian was 17.5sec off the lead and 11.9sec adrift of title rival Ogier.
Esapekka Lappi overcame a trip into the grapes when he missed a braking point. The Yaris driver was sixth, just ahead of Craig Breen and Juho Hänninen who were tied in seventh.
Breen lost time after touching a wall, losing concentration and spinning into a field at the next hairpin. The Irishman had 47.1sec in hand over ninth-placed Hayden Paddon, who lost 50sec with a front right puncture.
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