Rally Germany, saturday: Tänak takes command
Estonian in the clear after Neuville puncture
SS8-9: Ott doubles Germany lead
Ott Tänak widened his lead at ADAC Rallye Deutschland on Saturday morning after a costly error from closet challenger Thierry Neuville.
Tänak more than doubled his overnight advantage to 6.7sec in a Toyota Yaris as a mistake under braking in the morning’s second Römerstraße speed test provided an early setback for the Belgian.
Neuville cut 1.3sec from Tänak’s 2.8sec lead in the opening Freisen country lane test, but it went wrong in the next stage as chased down the Estonian.
“I was at a junction and I was late on the brakes and stalled a little bit the engine. We had trouble starting the engine as a fuse was gone,” explained Neuville, who was ninth fastest and more than five seconds off the pace.
Tänak capitalised by winning the stage. “I had a good stage and pushed a bit more than the previous one. The surface was cleaner so it was less risk. The first stage was dirty but it wasn’t a problem because me and Thierry are in the same place on the road,” he said.
Sébastien Ogier remained in third, 19.1sec behind Neuville and still unhappy with his Citroën C3. “The characteristics are a bit different but it still needs to be better. The car is difficult to drive and we’re fighting it the whole time,” said the Frenchman.
Kris Meeke was 3.8sec behind Ogier and 3.6sec ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Both Toyota drivers skimmed roadside hay bales in Freisen and Latvala was unhappy with his driving, promising to ‘get back to basics’.
The top six was completed by Andreas Mikkelsen in an i20, despite sliding into a Freisen field. He had 4.6sec in hand over Esapekka Lappi who closed with second fastest in Römerstraße.
Dani Sordo topped the times in Freisen and climbed to eighth after problems for Gus Greensmith. The Briton dropped almost three minutes after clipping a tree. He punctured his Ford Fiesta’s rear right tyre and changed a bent steering arm on the liaison section afterwards.
SS10-11: Neuville piles on pressure
Thierry Neuville upped the pressure on ADAC Rallye Deutschland leader Ott Tänak as their thrilling fight continued on Saturday morning’s second loop of Saarland speed tests.
He lost a handful of seconds earlier when he stalled his Hyundai i20 in a corner but bounced back to win the second pass through both the Freisen and Römerstraße tests. He reduced his deficit to 5.0sec ahead of this afternoon’s daunting Panzerplatte military road stages.
On roads dirtier than the initial pass as stones had been dragged onto the asphalt, the Belgian was 0.2sec faster than Tänak in Freisen and 1.5sec up in the next.
“The gap is still small and the rally is still long, so everything is fine. When the car stalled we couldn’t get it restarted but luckily Nicolas looked at the centre console and noticed the fuse. He pushed it back in and we managed to carry on,” said the Hyundai i20 pilot.
Tänak was unfazed by Neuville’s momentum. “I pushed as much as I can and had a clean run. The main thing was to maintain the gap. This afternoon will be a very different story and very new characteristics - now the big stages are waiting!” said the Toyota Yaris man.
Sébastien Ogier continued to hold off Kris Meeke in third but lost more time to those in front. The Frenchman trailed Neuville by 25.3sec but had 3.7sec in hand over Ulsterman Meeke, who continued to focus on manufacturer points for his Toyota Gazoo Racing squad.
Fifth was Jari-Matti Latvala in another Yaris, finally feeling more comfortable in his car after a ragged morning. The Finn was almost half a minute clear of Andreas Mikkelsen, who lost time after sliding his i20 into a Römerstraße ditch.
Dani Sordo posted top four times in both stages as he regained ground after last night’s gearbox problem. The Spaniard was up to seventh in his i20, overhauling Esapekka Lappi, who spun his Citroen C3 and lost 15sec in Freisen after locking his front tyres.
Takamoto Katsuta and Gus Greensmith completed the leaderboard after WRC 2 frontrunners Stéphane Lefebvre and Nicoilas Ciamin retired in consecutive stages.
After service in Bostalsee, drives face the first of two afternoon loops on Baumholder’s tough tank training roads, which are expected to be littered with stones and rocks. Most expect these to be the rally’s defining sections.
SS12-13: Ott clear after Neuville stop
Ott Tänak’s thrilling duel for the ADAC Rallye Deutschland lead with Thierry Neuville came to a premature end on the intimidating Panzerplatte tank training roads when Neuville dropped almost 90sec changing a puncture.
Tänak emerged from the first pass over the military ranges with a 42.6sec advantage in his Toyota Yaris as the leaderboard was turned upside down in the marathon 41.17km multi-surfaced Panzerplatte speed test.
Neuville started the stage 5.6sec adrift of Tänak, but his victory hopes were over after just 4.5km.
“We had a puncture on the rear left. It’s a lottery and we were really unlucky. We were in the middle of the road so I don’t know where that came from, but the rally isn’t over yet,” explained the Belgian who plunged to seventh.
Tänak was fastest in both the short Arena Panzerplatte and the longer version. “It was a tough and long stage. Not the perfect feeling but I guess it was the same for everyone,” said the Estonian.
It wasn’t a great afternoon for Sébastien Ogier either. He held onto third through the arena test in his Citroën C3, but was overhauled by Kris Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala in the long stage as Toyota Gazoo Racing took a clean sweep of the podium places.
“Unfortunately it was kind of expected. I gave everything I have,” said the disappointed Frenchman, who ended the stage with a rear left puncture. Meeke had 2.6sec in hand over his team-mate, with Ogier five-tenths behind in his Citroën C3.
Dani Sordo continued his positive day. Second Panzerplatte promoted the Spaniard ahead of i20 team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen into fifth. The gap between them was 6.4sec.
With Neuville at the rear of a three-car i20 train, there could be an opportunity for his Hyundai Motorsport team to promote him up the order to benefit his title challenge.
Esapekka Lappi remained eighth, the Finn cracking his C3’s windscreen after a heavy landing over the Gina jump in the arena test. Ninth-placed Takamoto Katsuta dropped time after overshooting a corner 600 metres after the start of the same stage.
After SS15: Tänak takes command
Ott Tänak is on course for a third straight ADAC Rallye Deutschland victory after leading a Toyota Gazoo Racing clean sweep of the top three places on Saturday night.
The Estonian, bidding to extend his FIA World Rally Championship lead, ended the longest leg of the four-day asphalt event with a 32.4sec advantage in his Yaris over Kris Meeke.
Jari-Matti Latvala overcame a ragged morning to hold third, a further 9.4sec behind after a stellar day for the Japanese manufacturer.
Tänak’s delight contrasted with title rival Thierry Neuville’s heartbreak. For a second day the pair duelled at the head of the leaderboard, never split by more than a handful of seconds through the morning’s four country lane tests in Saarland.
Despite briefly stalling his engine, Neuville reached mid-leg service 5.0sec down after winning two special stages.
The daunting multi-surfaced Baumholder tank training roads were predicted to be a pivotal point of the rally and they lived up to that forecast. Neuville punctured early in the marathon 41.17km Panzerplatte test and dropped nearly 90sec stopping to replace it.
“We had a puncture on the rear left. It’s a lottery and we were really unlucky. We were in the middle of the road so I don’t know where that came from,” he said.
With the pressure removed, Tänak eased though the second pass of Baumholder, the first occasion on which he had been able to relax.
“This morning Thierry was faster than me and I didn’t want to take risks. Unfortunately he hit problems and we have a comfortable lead. Baumholder is so, so tricky so I think you need to have some luck if you are pushing and come out without punctures,” he said.
Meeke and Latvala could not find a way by Sébastien Ogier, who continued to struggle with his understeering Citroën C3 in third, until the first pass through Panzerplatte. Both overhauled the Frenchman and Meeke widened the gap over his team-mate in the final test.
Dani Sordo recovered from last night’s gearbox problem to hold fourth in his i20. He was almost 25sec clear of Neuville, who lost more time in the final stage when he spun and inadvertently deactivated the gearchange system after hitting an in-car button.
Neuville still managed to overtake team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen, who ended 2.1sec behind in sixth despite twice sliding off the road. Esapekka Lappi was seventh, despite a spin and a heavy landing which cracked his C3’s windscreen.
Ogier’s day went from bad to worse when he stopped to change a puncture in the final test, losing 90sec and sinking to eighth. Gus Greensmith and Takamoto Katsuta completed the top 10, although Greensmith dropped almost three minutes after clipping a tree.
Sunday’s final leg reverts to the Mosel vineyards. Two runs through Grafshaft (28.06km) and Dhrontal (11.69km) total 79.50km, the second pass through Dhrontal forming the crucial bonus point finale as the Wolf Power Stage.
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