Ott Tanak heads the Rally Germany field after Friday morning’s loop of three stages. He holds a 7.2 second advantage over Sebastien Ogier who is also less than a handful of seconds ahead of his biggest World Rally Championship rival, Thierry Neuville.
The ninth round of the FIA WRC got underway last night in St. Wendel with a short super special stage, where Tanak also took honors. This morning, however, the crews headed into the Mosel valley vineyards for two identical loops of three stages totaling 101.42 competitive kilometers.
Ogier was quickest out of the blocks this morning and fastest time in the opening stage saw the Frenchman take the lead. However, Tanak fought back in the following two stages, despite struggling with the stability of the car, and set the pace in both to reclaim the advantage. Ogier has never been far adrift and was happy with his performance through the morning loop. Neuville has struggled most of the morning on the dusty roads with low grip and was forced to stop on a road section to repair a loose oil pipe. He is 10.9 seconds adrift of the lead at the mid-leg service.
Behind the leading trio, Esapekka Lappi has lost a little confidence on roads that have become dirtier with the cars in front pulling out debris and admitted to not being brave enough in these sections. He is fighting with Dani Sordo, the Spaniard just 2.1 seconds behind and happy with his morning.
Jari-Matti Latvala is also chasing hard, playing it cautiously in the dirty sections and admitting to also being a bit hesitant and unsure why he can’t set the same pace as his teammates. The close battle behind Lappi goes all the way down to seventh-placed Elfyn Evans, the four drivers split by less than four seconds. The Welshman has been surprised by the lack of grip but continues to push hard.
Andreas Mikkelsen is further adrift in eighth, the Norwegian losing time with a half spin while trying to work on a driving style that better suits the Hyundai. Craig Breen’s miserable Fridays continued as the Irish driver was unlucky to get caught in torrential rain midway through the second stage. He lost over 20 seconds to the leaders here alone. He is down in ninth, 36.2 seconds off the lead. Teammate Mads Ostberg is behind in 10th, the Norwegian having not competed on tarmac in the recent past.
The FIA WRC 2 Championship continues to be fiercely contested and tarmac expect Jan Kopecky heads the field by 5.4 seconds. He won only one of the morning’s stages and is fighting with Yoann Bonato and Nil Solans, the trio split by 6.5 seconds. Taisko Lario leads the FIA WRC 3 Championship contenders with a big advantage over Enrico Brazzoli.