SS9-10: Latvala leads as Neuville climbs into podium place
A short test around the central Panzerplatte area was followed by a monster in the Baumholder military zone. Ninety-three junctions and many more corners on a mix of rough, narrow concrete tracks and smooth, wide asphalt provided a stern challenge. The roads are edged with huge hinkelsteins, kerbs designed to keep tanks in line.
Hard or soft tyres for Panzerplatte? That was the question drivers faced as the roads were mostly dry but dark clouds hovered above.
Hyundai’s Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville opted for Michelin’s hard rubber while the other frontrunners selected soft compounds. Who was right?
Fastest time in the long test went to leader Jari-Matti Latvala on softs, but the big winner was Neuville, whose hard rubber enabled him to overhaul Andreas Mikkelsen and Sordo to take third.
“I think we were right,” said Neuville. “It wasn’t a perfect run because in the slippery parts I was too cautious and could have been faster."
The Belgian is 1.3sec ahead of Sordo, who admitted he was too careful in the damp sections, and 12.3sec clear of Mikkelsen who finished with badly worn front tyres on his Volkswagen Polo R and said: “In the forest it’s wet, but in the open areas it’s really drying.”
Latvala was 5.2sec clear of Meeke and heads the Citroen driver by 45.8sec. “It was tricky in places because the soft tyres were overheating. It’s going well, but it’s not easy,” he said.
Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans struggled for grip in their Ford Fiesta RS cars. Both dropped more than 20sec to Latvala, but Evans did enough to relegate his colleague to seventh. Mads Østberg, Bryan Bouffier and Martin Prokop complete the leaderboard.
Julien Maurin leads WRC 2 by 0.4sec from Pontus Tidemand after former leader Bernardo Sousa dropped more than three minutes with a puncture. Nasser Al Attiyah also punctured, Sébastien Chardonnet crashed and Marty McCormack stopped with a broken steering arm.
add_circle Breaking news: Sordo secures Italian double
More on WRC