Deutschland, after SS15: Four-way podium battle behind Tänak
Ogier error leaves Tänak clear
After a dramatic and close-fought afternoon of competition, Ott Tänak now has a 43.7 second advantage at the head of the Rallye Deutschland leaderboard. The Estonian is out on his own after Sebastien Ogier plummeted from second to ninth in the second of the repeated stages with a puncture. The reigning FIA World Rally Champion, who is fighting to retain his title against nearest rival Thierry Neuville, managed to climb to seventh by the end of the day but is nearly a minute behind the Hyundai driver. The battle for second is huge; Dani Sordo currently holds the position but the Spaniard is under fire from Jari-Matti Latvala, and potentially Neuville and Esapekka Lappi.
Tänak dropped a tiny amount of time to Ogier in the first of the afternoon’s repeated stages, but it all became academic when the Frenchman dropped out of contention after a strong performance throughout the event. He has now adopted a full risk strategy with nothing to lose as he continues to recover what he can from this event. In contrast, Tänak has little to push for and has been careful in the tricky places; a win in Germany would be the Estonian’s third victory of the season and second consecutive win on this tarmac event.
All eyes are now on the titanic battle for second. Sordo took the position following Ogier’s problem and the Spaniard now heads a four-way fight. He has run well on the military stages but once again lost time in the country lanes and now has Latvala just eight-tenths of a second behind him in third. The Finn is loving the battle and pushing hard but he too has Neuville on his heels. The Hyundai driver reverted back to his original gearbox and differential during the lunchtime service but even though the car has felt better the Belgian admitted to still being off the pace. He has however managed to climb one position during the afternoon and is crucially ahead of Ogier as far as potential Championship points are concerned. Lappi has had a much better day than yesterday, improving stage by stage and he sits in fifth, a further 6.3 seconds behind Neuville. Those four drivers, with 72.18 competitive kilometres remaining tomorrow, are split by 15.1 seconds.
Andreas Mikkelsen continues his relentless work to find a better style and he is sixth, just five-tenths of a second ahead of a charging Ogier. The Frenchman has progressively moved up the leaderboard and is sure to overhaul the Norwegian tomorrow such has been his pace. Teemu Suninen is behind team-mate Ogier with Mads Østberg and Craig Breen rounding out the top 10. Østberg felt his driving was better but failed to understand why the times are still not coming, and Breen dropped from sixth when he ran wide in the final stage, was pitched into a field and damaged the rear suspension, a bitter blow for the Irish driver which dropped him out of the podium battle.
Contenders in the FIA WRC 2 Championship have been dropping like flies during the day and the lead has changed three times this afternoon. Leading going into the afternoon, Eric Camilli retired with an alternator problem in the third stage, handing the lead to Fabio Andolfi. The Italian was then overhauled by Kalle Rovanperä in the final stage and while he remains second just 2.9 seconds adrift, Jan Kopecký is now less than a handful of seconds behind in third. The Czech Rally Champion has mounted a huge assault after problems yesterday and with a clean sweep of stage wins this afternoon has put himself right back in contention. Taisko Lario has a runaway lead in the FIA WRC 3 Championship and heads Enrico Brazolli and Louise Cook going into the last day.
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