Citroen driver Dani Sordo has ended day three of Rallye Deutschland in the lead, but the final test was cancelled after a fatal accident
involving a historic car participating in a 'non-competitive demonstration programme'.
Sordo had been running third for much of the event, the ninth round in the 2013 World Rally Championship, but the Spaniard found himself bumped up into top spot on the repeat loop this afternoon, when his two rivals ahead, Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville both ran into trouble.
Latvala had built up a 14.8 second advantage going into the mid-day halt, but he got caught out by the tricky conditions in SS12, clipping a pile of logs and damaging his Volkswagen Polo R WRC. He had to stop, but will re-start under the Rally 2 rules on Sunday, albeit now down in seventh place.
Neuville also had problems in Stein & Wein 2, and at exactly the same corner as Latvala. The Belgian, however, was able to continue and despite damaging the exhaust on his Qatar WRT-run M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, he initially moved up into the lead, before slipping back in SS13. With just 0.8 seconds between Sordo and Neuville though, the scene is set for an exciting conclusion to the event on Sunday.
“Obviously, like everyone, my first thoughts go to the families and friends of the two crews members who were involved in this terrible accident,” Sordo said. “As regards the rally itself, I'm pleased to have been the quickest when the conditions were at their most difficult. We're now in front, but the lead is less than a second. I'm going to remain totally focussed in order to tackle the final two stages in the best possible frame of mind. It's going to be a great scrap tomorrow!”
“It was a difficult afternoon,” Neuville added. “Where we had the problem on SS12, I was already 20km/h slower than usual but I think we should have probably been another 20km/h slower than that! We were very lucky because it could have been easy to lose the whole rally there.
“Jari-Matti [Latvala] had brought a lot of mud onto the road [after his off] which sent me sliding wide. We hit a log pile which damaged the exhaust and left us slightly down-on-power for the remainder of the loop. But I think we managed the situation well and we achieved the maximum in the circumstances.
“We are definitely going to push tomorrow and we will attack from the start. But we won't take any unnecessary risks – especially if the weather is as tricky as it was this afternoon. We need to be clever and keep all four wheels on the road. It will not be an easy day, but we are ready to fight and give it our all.”
Behind, Mikko Hirvonen is now on course for the final spot on the podium, albeit almost a 1.5 minutes adrift in his Citroen DS3 WRC.