Eric Camilli moved into an unexpected lead in the WRC2 category of Rally Deutschland, inheriting a lead of over a minute on Škoda pair Jan Kopecký and Pontus Tidemand after both hit trouble during Saturday’s action.
The day began with Kopecký and Tidemand vying for the class lead, but Tidemand was quickly set back by a delaminated tyre in the day’s second test, dropping 50 seconds and allowing Camilli into second.
It was the same Panzerplatte stage – this time in the afternoon – that ruined Kopecký’s bid for victory, picking up a front right puncture immediately after a long downhill section and aggressively punching the brake pedal. He elected to stop and change the wheel mid-stage, dropping a minute and a half and falling to third, behind Camilli and Tidemand.
Camilli was taken aback by the news, not expecting to suddenly inherit the lead given the long and tough battle with Kopecký. Having taken 13.4 seconds out of the Czech driver in the first running of Panzerplatte, only to lose most of that time over the following four stages, he struggled to process picking up first place.
“Oh s**t. Oh s**t. Oh s**t,” he said at the end of the stage, still comprehending the minute advantage he had gained in the space of a single stage.
Kopecký did not take his misfortune lying down, immediately moving back into second by winning the remaining stages and taking 13.6 seconds out of team-mate Tidemand.
Crucially for Tidemand, he still holds a position good enough to secure the WRC2 title tomorrow, sitting in the final podium place while chief rival Teemu Suninen languishes down in sixth. The Finn picked up a puncture during each running of the 42 kilometre Panzerplatte test, complaining about how the first run through the notorious army training base was the “s***est stage of my life”.
Panzerplatte left a swathe of WRC2 drivers shellshocked, the abrasive surface and sharp edges of concrete wreaking havoc on tyres and causing a number of punctures. Despite overshooting two junctions in the morning pass of the stage, Gus Greensmith took advantage of the tyre troubles blighting many of his rivals to move into fourth place, almost a minute ahead of Quentin Gilbert. The Frenchman got off relatively lightly, with two spins and an overshot junction during the morning loop the biggest dramas to befall him.
The recovering Suninen closed the gap between himself and Gilbert to 6.5 seconds by the day’s end, and holds a lead of over half a minute over Simone Tempestini.
Pierre-Louis Loubet was yet another driver to come a cropper in Panzerplatte, dropping over two minutes with a puncture in the morning pass of the stage. Several Top 5 stage times have pushed him closer to Tempestini, with only four tenths of a second separating the pair.
Local driver Marijan Griebel, who is making his WRC2 debut this weekend, had initially been competing for a top five finish, but was one of the many victims of Panzerplatte. He picked up a puncture, but was unable to slow the car down in time for the following corner, sliding into a ditch and taking several minutes to extract his Škoda Fabia R5.
Benito Guerra moved into the final points position, his quest for points aided by the previous occupant of the position Łukasz Pieniążek being yet another driver to suffer a puncture in Panzerplatte. He was stuck behind another slow car after replacing the damaged tyre, further compounding his time loss and dropping over five minutes.
Yoann Bonato suffered a disastrous leg, nursing a temperamental gearbox in the morning loop, followed up with a broken clutch in the afternoon. He was unable to start the final stage of the day and retired.
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