SS5: Neuville closes on Tänak

Thierry Neuville halved Ott Tänak’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland lead with victory in Friday afternoon’s opening speed test.

Stage info: SS5

Stein und Wein 2, 19.44km
Friday afternoon’s opener is based in the vineyards near Trier, After the start in Fell, crews negotiate a winding ascent to Thomm. Both towns are famous for their wines and mining legacy, hence the stage name which translates as Stone and Wine. Along the Ruwer river, the route speeds through a valley to Waldrach before heading south to the finish. It is fast and flowing with a mix of wide main roads and narrow tracks. There are plenty of hairpins and chances for drivers to save valuable tenths by cutting corners.

The Belgian repeated his morning’s fastest time in Stein und Wein to reduce the deficit at the top of the leaderboard from 3.2sec to 1.6sec.

“I felt quite okay with the car so I enjoyed that one. It’s still early in the rally but the rhythm is very fast,” said the Hyundai i20 driver.

Tänak, who was quickest in the two previous stages before the mid-leg service, was third in his Toyota Yaris. “There was quite a lot more dirt, but a good clean run. No risks,” explained the Estonian.

Neuville and Tänak sandwiched Kris Meeke, who was second fastest in his Yaris to extend his advantage over Dani Sordo in fourth place to 2.6sec. Meeke trailed a happier Sébastien Ogier in the overall standings by 3.1sec.

Ogier made changes to his understeering Citroën C3 in service and was fourth fastest in the stage, a tenth slower than Tänak.

“I’m still slower, but closer,” said the Frenchman. “At least the feeling was a bit better. We made some steps in service. We had a big problem with the balance so we have tried some changes to make the car turn in. It’s a step forward.”

Esapekka Lappi spun his C3 early in the stage and dropped behind Andreas Mikkelsen into eighth.

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