Rally Germany, friday: Tänak holds off Neuville
Neuville sits just 2.8-seconds adrift of rally leader
SS2: Neuville demotes Tänak
Fastest time in Friday morning’s opening speed test promoted Thierry Neuville into the lead of ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Neuville stopped the clocks 1.7sec faster than Ott Tänak through the 19.44km Stein und Wein special stage to demote the Estonian, who led after last night’s short curtain-raiser. The gap between the pair was seventh-tenths in the overall standings.
“We know this rally will be a big push from the beginning to the end. I felt like the car was sliding a little bit too much and the grip was low, but it seems to be the road conditions,” said Neuville, who is driving a Hyundai i20.
Tänak was one of many to highlight the inconsistent conditions in the vineyards. “There were changing grip levels in quite a few places which was surprising. The asphalt is clean but we are not in a perfect rhythm so we’ll see where we can improve,” said the Toyota Yaris pilot.
He was 1.6sec quicker than an understeering Sébastien Ogier, who slotted into third in the standings, 3.2sec off Neuville’s pace in his Citroën C3.
Kris Meeke, Jari-Matti Latvala and Dani Sordo filled the next three places in both the stage and the overall positions. Both Latvala and Hyundai Motorsport’s Andreas Mikkelsen, who was eighth, complained of understeer.
It was a disastrous start for Teemu Suninen, the Finn parking his Ford Fiesta after 9.7km with mechanical problems, while Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta, driving a Yaris World Rally Car for the first time in the WRC, stalled in the opening hairpin.
SS3-4: Tänak back in front
Championship leader Ott Tänak headed ADAC Rallye Deutschland at the midpoint of Friday’s first full day of action after winning two of today’s three speed tests.
He returned to the Bostalsee service park having demoted Thierry Neuville from top spot with fastest times in the bumpy and narrow Mittelmosel vineyard and smoother Wadern-Weiskirchen country road special stages. The gap between them was 3.2sec.
After losing his overnight lead in the opening test, Tänak made some modifications to his Toyota Yaris and was happier with the performance through the next two tests.
“I’ve been fine tuning a bit and things are coming together, so I hope the second loop will be better. The two stages had very different characteristics. The last one was just straights and junctions and in one place I was really wide,” said the Estonian.
Neuville was second in both stages in his Hyundai i20 but could only shake his head when he saw Tänak’s time at the end of Wadern-Weiskirchen. “No chance,” was his assessment.
World champion Sébastien Ogier was 13.7sec off the pace in third but at odds with his understeering Citroën C3. “I have some ideas what is the problem, I don’t have ideas of what we need to do,” said the Frenchman, who also lost time with a stall in Mittelmosel.
Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo fought tooth and nail for fourth. Meeke held the advantage by a tenth from the Spaniard despite believing he lacked commitment in his Yaris through Wadern-Weiskirchen.
Sordo was unhappy on roads that became increasingly dirty as cars ahead dragged gravel onto the surface. The Hyundai i20 pilot had almost two seconds in hand over Jari-Matti Latvala’s Yaris.
Esapekka Lappi was seventh, but struggling for rhythm in his C3, just 0.4sec clear of Andreas Mikkelsen, whose i20 was understeering into corners. Gus Greensmith and WRC 2 Pro leader Kalle Rovanperä completed the top 10.
SS5: Neuville closes on Tänak
Thierry Neuville halved Ott Tänak’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland lead with victory in Friday afternoon’s opening speed test.
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.
After SS7: Tänak holds off Neuville
Ott Tänak fended off a determined challenge from FIA World Rally Championship title rival Thierry Neuville to hold a narrow lead at ADAC Rallye Deutschland on Friday night.
Championship leader Tänak, chasing a fifth victory of the season in his Toyota Yaris, won four of the six speed tests to head Neuville by 2.8sec after a thrilling duel.
In baking temperatures nearing 30°C, the pair distanced their opponents on bumpy and narrow vineyard roads above the Mosel river and country lanes in Saarland. World champion Sébastien Ogier was third in a Citroën C3, 22.1sec off the lead.
Tänak led after Thursday night’s curtain-raising test but was relegated by Neuville in this morning’s opener. He moved back in front on the next stage and although his Belgian rival narrowed the deficit when the stages were repeated, Tänak retained a narrow advantage.
“There is nothing comfortable when the fight is like it is,” said the Estonian. “Thierry is doing very well but rallying is never a walk in the park and there is still a big battle.
“It’s exactly what we expected - fast stages and small gaps. Tomorrow is a very difficult day and the long military road stage will be so important.”
Neuville won the opening test of the loop on both occasions in his Hyundai i20 and there was little Ogier could do to stay in touch as he wrestled with an understeering Citroën C3. He lost more valuable seconds after stalling his engine and later sliding into a field.
Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo were closely matched in a battle for fourth. Meeke held the initiative all day in his Yaris, until Sordo edged ahead in the penultimate test, only for his i20’s gearbox to jam in first gear in the final stage. He lost almost a minute to plunge to ninth.
Jari-Matti Latvala capitalised to climb to fifth in his Yaris, despite sliding into a field in the final test and struggling to perfect his braking. He was 2.2sec adrift of Meeke and 12.2sec clear of Andreas Mikkelsen in sixth.
Mikkelsen, driving an i20, struggled with understeer into corners but moved ahead of a disappointed Esapekka Lappi when the Finn spun his C3. Gus Greensmith was eighth in a Ford Fiesta with WRC 2 Pro leader Kalle Rovanperä completing the leaderboard behind Sordo.
Teemu Suninen was the only major retirement, stopping early in the opening special stage with fly-by-wire motor failure in his Ford Fiesta.
Saturday features a double loop of two country lane tests in Saarland before the action shifts to the intimidating multi-surfaced Panzerplatte military roads. Four abrasive stages there, packed with awkward junctions and lined by car-breaking kerbstones, raise the day’s total to 157.92km.
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