Ott Tänak headed Andreas Mikkelsen by 21.4sec following the penultimate leg of the asphalt encounter ADAC Rallye Deutschland, after tough speed tests on Panzerplatte’s multi-surface tank training roads and greasy country lanes.
The day was a disaster for Thierry Neuville, though, who retired his Hyundai i20 with broken rear suspension after the opening military road special stage.
His demise handed a crucial advantage to Sébastien Ogier, with whom he is tied at the top of the championship standings. Ogier is third, hot on the heels of Mikkelsen and in line for big points.
“It was probably a bad impact on the wheel rim,” said Neuville. “I knew the corner very well and there is a small step out of the cut. I have to accept it, look forwards and keep the motivation for the next rounds, because the title is still on.”
Most drivers chose soft compound tyres this morning expecting damp roads. They were drier than forecast and an over-cautious approach from Mikkelsen allowed Tänak to pull clear in his Ford Fiesta.
An error-strewn stage from Mikkelsen when he first spun and then stalled his Citroën C3’s engine within 200 metres, gave Estonian Tänak more daylight and the Estonian managed his advantage this afternoon.
“It was a clean day with no mistakes and other guys have made mistakes,” said Tänak. “We have quite a good margin and at the moment it looks OK. Tomorrow we should keep going as we have been so far. It has been comfortable and I don’t see any reason to worry.”
Mikkelsen’s errors allowed Ogier to close. With Neuville sidelined for the day, the Frenchman was reluctant to commit all in pursuit of second. He is 8.2sec behind the Norwegian in his Fiesta.
Juho Hänninen made a perfect tyre choice this morning to overhaul fourth-placed Elfyn Evans in his Toyota Yaris. However, a broken damper slowed the Finn and the Welshman regained the place by 4.2sec.
Craig Breen slithered his C3 into a field on three occasions but the Irishman was sixth.
Sunday is the shortest of the rally with two identical loops of two stages covering 51.94km. The final St Wendeler Land test forms the live TV Power Stage, with bonus points for the fastest five drivers. The podium ceremony follows immediately in the Bostalsee service park.
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Fiesta 2hr 31min 32.2sec
2. A Mikkelsen / A Jaeger NOR Citroën C3 + 21.4sec
3. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta + 29.6sec
4. E Evans / D Barritt GBR Ford Fiesta + 1min 48.3sec
5. J Hänninen / K Lindström FIN Toyota Yaris + 1min 52.5sec
6. C Breen / S Martin IRL Citroën C3 + 2min 06.7sec
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