Ott Tänak has once again taken control of the FIA World Rally Championship leaderboard and the Estonian heads the Rallye Deutschland field after Friday morning’s loop of three stages.
After just 50 competitive kilometres, he holds a 7.2-second advantage over Sebastien Ogier who is also less than a handful of seconds ahead of his biggest Championship rival, Thierry Neuville.
The ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship got underway last night in St. Wendel with a short super special stage, where Tänak also took honours.
This morning, however, the crews headed into the Mosel valley vineyards for two identical loops of three stages totalling 101.42 competitive kilometres. Ogier was quickest out of the blocks this morning and the fastest time in the opening stage saw the Frenchman take the lead.
However, Tänak 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 team-mates. 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 continue, and the Irish driver was unlucky to get caught in torrential rain mid-way 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. Team-mate Mads Østberg 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 expert Jan Kopecký 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 significant advantage over Enrico Brazzoli.