Toyota Yaris WRC driver Ott Tanäk has emerged on top of the opening loop of Rallye Deutschland, which consisted of three stages on vineyard roads close to the Mosel River, characterised by narrow roads and tight hairpin bends, north of the Bostalsee Service Park.
The championship leader had claimed the lead after last night’s opening super special but he lost it briefly to Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville on today’s first stage SS2 “Stein und Wein 1”. Tanäk then won SS3 and SS4 to reclaim the top spot and mark three stage wins out of the four speed tests run so far.
Neuville ended up second overall, 3.2 seconds behind Tanäk, as the cars headed to service in Bostalsee. Satisfied with his performance, the Belgian however admitted that it was a big effort to keep up with the pace set by his Estonian rival.
Behind them, Citroën’s Sébastien Ogier was third, having struggled with an understeer problem throughout the morning. Although he identified the potential issues, the French wasn’t sure of the solution and may have tweaked the set-up on his C3 WRC during the midday service.
Toyota’s Kris Meeke finished in fourth, a tiny tenth of a second ahead of Hyundai’s Dani Sordo, a former winner of Rallye Deutschland. Sordo, who was starting quite far down the order, has been suffering with roads getting dirty with mud and gravel pulled out by earlier runners – the opposite problem to gravel rallies, where those running at the back generally have an advantage compared to the first in the start order, who have to clean the road.
Andreas Mikkelsen, in eighth, wasn’t entirely happy with the feel of his Hyundai under braking. He is ahead of Gus Greensmith, the lead Ford Fiesta WRC, who is still gaining mileage and experience on his third WRC participation this year. His M-Sport teammate Elfyn Evans is still recovering from a back injury he sustained before Rally Finland.
In 10th overall, Finland’s Kalle Rovanperä leads the FIA WRC 2 Pro for Škoda, ahead of his Czech team-mate Jan Kopecky, while Stéphane Lefebvre is the FIA WRC 2 leader in his Volkswagen Polo R5.
Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta occupies the 13th place in the provisional ranking on his WRC debut in the Toyota Yaris after a sensible morning.
It was a frustrating start to the rally for M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen, who stopped in the first stage of the day with a technical problem. His car will now be recovered to the service area to restart tomorrow.
This afternoon’s three stages is a repeat of the morning’s action.