Ott Tänak led ADAC Rallye Deutschland on Thursday night after winning a spectacular opening speed stage in St Wendel.
The Toyota Yaris driver edged surprise package Kalle Rovanperä by a tenth of a second through the short 2.04km special stage in the Saarland town. Fellow Skoda Fabia WRC 2 driver Ole Christian Veiby delivered another shock in third, a further tenth behind.
Big crowds basked in glorious evening sunshine to watch the opening of the four-day event. The roads didn’t suit the new-generation World Rally Cars, and many drivers complained of understeer as they attacked the tricky turns.
“It was terrible, never had that bad a super special,” said Tänak. “The stage is so tight, and it’s not for these cars with so much understeer. I guess it must be the same for everybody, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Dani Sordo was fourth in a Hyundai i20, ahead of yet another driver from the WRC 2 support category, Jan Kopecký. Sébastien Ogier’s Ford Fiesta completed the top six.
Andreas Mikkelsen’s i20 and Craig Breen’s Citroën C3 tied in seventh, but Mikkelsen was far from happy.
“At the start, we were told to wait, so we stopped the car. Then they gave us our time card and told us to start, and we had seven seconds to switch on the car. We didn’t start in launch mode even,” explained the Norwegian.
Championship leader Thierry Neuville was a risk-free 13th in his i20, 2.0sec off the pace, and Jari-Matti Latvala was 15th after clipping a bale and stalling his Yaris’ engine.
Mads Østberg complained of a lack of power in his C3 en route to 21st, while Jourdan Serderidis knocked a tyre off the rim after clipping a kerb in his Fiesta.
ADAC Rallye Deutschland continues tomorrow with a further six stages.