Jari-Matti Latvala heads the Rallye Deutschland leaderboard following the opening loop this morning, but Thierry Neuville is only 2.4 seconds back, after setting the pace in all three stages.
Latvala inherited P1 in SS3, the first test of the day, when his Volkswagen team-mate, Sebastien Ogier
went off the road and damaged the suspension on his Polo R WRC. The Frenchman lost over 2.5 minutes as a result and he was then forced to retire
from the leg in the subsequent test.
Latvala initially had a 5.8 second cushion after Mittelmosel 1, but with Neuville on a charge – despite almost running into the stationary Ogier in SS4! – the Finn saw his advantage trimmed back, setting up things up for a good battle this afternoon, following the mid-day halt.
"It was not such an easy start and I'm feeling a little bit of pressure now," Latvala told the official WRC site. "The first stage today was dry for the first kilometre but then, when we went into the forests, the road got damper and was quite slippery.
“My driving has been alright, although I could be more consistent. When it's clean and the grip is good I'm doing okay, but in some corners where it's very dirty and slippery I didn't have the best confidence. The car is also understeering, and if I could get rid of that it would boost my confidence.”
“It's been a good morning and I think we made the right tyre choice," added Neuville. "We started on used tyres, but I didn't feel any loss of performance. We're driving well and we set three fastest [stage] times, so we certainly can't complain about that!
“I had a good feeling with the car – the only thing we need to resolve is a little bit of understeer. I'm still discovering this car on Tarmac, so our pace notes remain a little slow and we're working on perfecting the set-up, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.
“It's an enjoyable battle for the lead and we need to keep Jari-Matti under pressure this afternoon. It's so close that we cannot afford to give away any time. But there's a long way to go and I feel confident in the vineyards so I think we have the pace to challenge.”
Behind the top two, Dani Sordo is 'best of the rest' in his Citroen
DS3 WRC car, albeit 12.7 seconds back.
team-mate Mikko Hirvonen
is next up and fourth, a further 13.2 seconds adrift, while Mads Ostberg
rounds out the top five.