Ott Tänak increased his narrow lead over Thierry Neuville on Rallye Deutschland, the Toyota driver ending Saturday morning with an advantage of five seconds.
The crews took on a loop of two speed tests run twice in the Saarland countryside, ahead of this afternoon’s assault on the Baumholder military complex. Unusually for Rallye Deutschland, the weather conditions have remained consistently sunny and dry.
Neuville started the day by reducing Tänak’s lead from 2.8 to 1.4 seconds on the first run over SS8. On the following SS9 however, he stalled his Hyundai at a junction and took time to restart, losing 5.2 seconds to Tänak, who won the stage. The Belgian then set the fastest time in both of the repeat runs to take some of that time back before the midday service.
Citroën’s Sébastien Ogier and Toyota’s Kris Meeke went on a tight battle for third during the morning, the Frenchman eventually remaining ahead with a margin of 3.7 seconds, although he said he was struggling with the handling of his car.
The third Toyota driver Jari-Matti Latvala managed to close in to the pair in fifth, pulling away from Hyundai’s Andreas Mikkelsen.
After being stopped in the fight for third due to a gearbox issue on Friday’s final stage, Dani Sordo demonstrated his pace today again, winning the opening stage and later coming ahead of Esapekka Lappi in seventh.
The Finn, in a provisional eighth place overall, showed great performances too, finishing second fastest on two stages, but he dropped time with a spin in SS10.
Gus Greensmith hit trouble in the first stage of the morning, reaching the finish of SS8 with the rear-right tyre off the rim of his M-Sport Ford Fiesta. He is now 10th behind Toyota’s WRC debutant Takamoto Katsuta.
The other M-Sport driver Teemu Suninen restarted after his early retirement on Friday and set strong times, running first on the road.
Kalle Rovanperä lost the lead in FIA WRC 2 Pro when he went off the road in the first stage, with his car beached in the grass. The young Finn dropped over four minutes, before another moment on the following test. His Škoda team-mate Jan Kopecky now leads the class in 11th overall, with Fabian Kreim on top of the FIA WRC 2 after disaster struck for French Volkswagen drivers Stéphane Lefebvre and Nicolas Ciamin.