Ott Tänak is only four stages away from a second WRC victory at Rally Deutschland, maintaining a steady 21.4 second advantage over the chasing pair of Andreas Mikkelsen and Sébastien Ogier.
The Estonian continued to steadily set competitive times all afternoon, though Dani Sordo swept the trio of afternoon Panzerplatte tests, helped by the lack of pressure from being 35 minutes down on Tänak, only breaking into the top 40 places after the last of the three Panzerplatte stages.
Mikkelsen and Ogier continued their duel for second position, and the Citroën driver cost himself a handful of seconds by stalling his C3 at the start of stage 14, the third and final running of the short Panzerplatte Superspecial.
He recovered his losses in the following stage by winning the full length Panzerplatte test, and was focused on fending off Ogier for second than challenge Tänak for the lead.
“I think both me and Seb Ogier are pushing to the maximum. I know I am,” said Mikkelsen. “I’m enjoying the fight, I hope it goes all the way to the last stage tomorrow, that would be cool. My confidence in the car is getting better and better with every kilometre.”
Elfyn Evans moved back into fourth place for the third time during the rally. In the morning loop he had struggled for grip under braking and conceded the position to the hard charging Juho Hänninen, but the lead Toyota suffered a broken damper in the 42 kilometre Panzerplatte stage. While he took time out of the Welshman on the stage, he capitulated time through the remaining stages of the day, falling behind into fifth place after the Freisen test.
Craig Breen holds what is now a comfortable sixth place, having spent much of the day battling with Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn’s run at the Citroën driver was abruptly halted by a puncture in the abrasive Panzerplatte stage, in the same section which had caused multiple punctures for the WRC2 crews in the morning running of the test.
Latvala’s troubles allowed Hayden Paddon to close to within half a minute of the Toyota driver, rediscovering his confidence after a thoroughly disappointing performance on Friday. He holds a comfortable lead over nearly four minutes over ninth placed Eric Camilli.
Local privateer Armin Kremer, who has rented a 2017 specification Fiesta WRC from M-Sport for this weekend, moved into the final points position after troubles hit both the factory Škoda Motorsport WRC2 cars during the day and dropped them out of the overall points classification.
It was a miserable day for other drivers who restarted under Rally2 regulations following retirements on Friday. Esapekka Lappi suffered a front-left puncture on the punishing surface of Panzerplatte, while Kris Meeke was forced to retire in the road section between stages 14 and 15 due to a suspected water pump failure.
|1.||Ott Tänak||M-Sport World Rally Team||2:31:32.2|
|2.||Andreas Mikkelsen||Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT||+21.4|
|3.||Sébastien Ogier||M-Sport World Rally Team||+29.6|
|4.||Elfyn Evans||M-Sport World Rally Team||+1:48.3|
|5.||Juho Hänninen||Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT||+1:52.5|
|6.||Craig Breen||Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT||+2:06.7|
|7.||Jari-Matti Latvala||Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT||+4:04.9|
|8.||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai Motorsport||+4:31.3|
|9.||Eric Camilli||M-Sport World Rally Team||+8:41.9|
|10.||Armin Kremer||M-Sport World Rally Team||+8:54.5|