Ott Tänak on course for FIA World Rally Championship – ADAC Rallye Deutschland win after widening the lead.
Tänak starts Sunday’s final leg with a 43.7sec advantage in his Toyota Yaris, while Sébastien Ogier was left to wonder about the significance this afternoon would have on his quest for a sixth consecutive world title.
The pair traded seconds in this morning’s four stages over Baumholder’s dusty tank training roads and Saarland’s country lanes, Tänak, who is aiming for a second consecutive victory, eking out his lead by 1.8sec to 14.3sec.
Ogier trimmed half a second off his deficit before hitting a rock in the second pass through the marathon Panzerplatte military road stage. He stopped to replace his Ford Fiesta’s damaged front wheel, conceding more than 1min 40sec to the Estonian.
In contrast to yesterday’s dominance, Tänak failed to win any of the eight stages, covering 150km but was in a strong position to add to last month’s victory in Finland.
“It was a mega fight today with Seb. We were pushing really hard, and I wasn’t feeling too comfortable in the first loop. It was a very tough morning,” he said.
“I knew it would be completely different to yesterday; there was a lot that was new to me that I had to adjust to and we had too much understeer.”
Ogier plunged to ninth, and his 21-point deficit to championship leader Thierry Neuville appeared to be a widening chasm with the Belgian lying fourth. He recovered to seventh over the final two tests.
“I pushed as much as I can. Now it’s a full risk because I have nothing to lose any more. It’s disappointing, and at this moment you want to cry. We put in a lot of effort this weekend but don’t have the benefit of it,” said Ogier.
Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala were split by 0.8sec in a fierce fight for second. Sordo won three of the military road stages in his Hyundai i20, while Yaris pilot Latvala had the edge on the country lanes. He won two tests.
Neuville struggled for pace in his i20. His team reinstalled the differential and gearbox that was replaced yesterday after an oil leak, but Neuville never found a comfortable rhythm as the championship battle played on his mind. He ended 8.0sec behind Latvala.
Esapekka Lappi was fifth in another Yaris, 6.3sec further back.
Just three stages comprise tomorrow’s finale, but they total 72.18km. Two identical tests in the Mosel vineyards are followed by the live TV Bosenberg Power Stage, which offers bonus points to the fastest five drivers.
Contenders in the FIA WRC 2 Championship have been dropping like flies during the day and the lead has changed three times this afternoon.
Leading going into the afternoon, Eric Camilli retired with an alternator problem in the third stage, handing the lead to Fabio Andolfi. The Italian was then overhauled by Kalle Rovanperä in the final stage and while he remains second just 2.9 seconds adrift, Jan Kopecký is now less than a handful of seconds behind in third.
The Czech Rally Champion has mounted a huge assault after problems yesterday and with a clean sweep of stage wins this afternoon has put himself right back in contention. Taisko Lario has a runaway lead in the FIA WRC 3 Championship and heads Enrico Brazolli and Louise Cook going into the last day.
Leading WRC positions:
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Toyota Yaris 2hr 23min 27.1sec
2. D Sordo / C Del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 + 43.7sec
3. J-M Latvala / M Anttila FIN Toyota Yaris + 44.5sec
4. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 + 52.5sec
5. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 58.8sec
6. A Mikkelsen / A Jaeger NOR Hyundai i20 + 1min 50.7sec