Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier has doubled his overnight lead on Rallye Deutschland on Saturday's opening loop, winning four of the five tests.
Ogier, who began the leg 9.5 seconds up on team-mate and nearest rival, Jari-Matti Latvala, was 2.3s up on the Finn in SS9, the opening test of the day. Ogier then lost out in SS10 and was 'only' second, 2.8s slower, before winning the next three stages – including the 45.61km Panzerplatte Long test – to head back to service with a 18.5s cushion.
“Without splits it's very difficult to judge your pace, but not a bad run,” Ogier said after SS13 and after beating Latvala by 6.8s in that stage alone. “The front tyres were moving a bit near the end, but no problems.”
“The car did not work as I expected it to after the test,” Latvala added. “It did not work in here [SS13]. It was too stiff.”
Meanwhile, VW Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen continues to hold third, almost 50 seconds back.
Behind, Hyundai duo Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville are still fighting over fourth. Sordo slipped behind in SS10 after experiencing gearshift problems, but re-took the position in SS13. They are now split by 6.7s.
M-Sport's Elfyn Evans rounds out the top six and has increased the margin over team-mate Ott Tanak from 5.7s last night to 16.6s post-SS13. Evans also impressively popped in the second best time in Grafschaft 1, only 0.7s off Ogier.
"The first stage [SS9] was really good. I like that stage and even though we were not perfect everywhere, we had the confidence through the fast sections and the time was good," Evans said.
"The second stage [SS10] was a new one for us so it wasn't easy to be fully on it, and on Panzerplatter [SS11-13] I just didn't seem to get into my rhythm. We were a bit too cautious in the first part and lost grip towards the end but I'm determined to do better in there next time.”
“Generally it's been a really smooth morning with no issues and no dramas. We've driven cleverly without taking any risks and have been able to check all of the notes," Tanak added.
"We'll try a few small things with the set-up this afternoon and see if we can push a little bit more.”
Mads Ostberg is up to eighth in his Citroen, overhauling Hyundai third driver Hayden Paddon in Panzerplatte Long 1 and pulling out a 34.7s gap.
WRC debutant Stephane Lefebvre completes the top ten in his DS 3 WRC, with Kevin Abbring eleventh in the fourth Hyundai and Ford privateer Martin Prokop 13th, losing time with a broken driveshaft. Sandwiched between the two is WRC2 class leader, Jan Kopecky. Kopecky won three more stages this morning and is now over 2 minutes up on Craig Breen. Eric Camilli is third.
As for retirements, former F1 driver Robert Kubica stopped 17.8km into the final test of the loop after damaging a wheel.
Rallye Deutschland now this afternoon, with repeat runs through this morning's stages – although competitors will tackle the 2.87 km Arena Panzerplatte test only once. SS14, the 18.35 km Grafschaft 2 test, is due to start at 15.31 hours local time [14.31 hours UK time]. Full itinerary for round nine in WRC 2015 available - HERE
2015 Rallye Deutschland: Overall standings after Stage 13 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2hr 08m 26.5s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 18.5s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +1m 07.0s
4. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 42.6s
5. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 49.3s
6. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 01.2s
7. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 17.8s
8. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +2m 18.3s
9. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +2m 53.0s
10. Stephane Lefebvre
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +3m 42.5s
11. Kevin Abbring
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +6m 34.5s
12. Jan Kopecky
Skoda Fabia R5 +6m 54.5s
13. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7m 23.2s
14. Craig Breen
Peugeot 208 T16 +9m 05.4s
15. Eric Camilli
Ford Fiesta R5 +9m 26.0s
WRC2 standings after Stage 13 (Top 3):
1. Jan Kopecky
Skoda Fabia R5 2hr 15m 21.0s
2. Craig Breen
Peugeot 208 T16 +2m 10.9s
3. Eric Camilli
Ford Fiesta R5 +2m 32.5s
SS2. Esapekka Lappi
Skoda Fabia R5 Went off
SS13. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Lost a wheel
M denotes Manufacturer entry
*denotes re-started on Saturday under Rally 2
all times unofficial